Prestigious award gong for borough’s homeless charity

DENS chief executive Andrew Liversidge

DENS chief executive Andrew Liversidge

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Dacorum homeless charity DENS has scooped the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, Buckingham Palace announced today (Thursday, June 2).

The QAVS award is the equivalent to an MBE for volunteer groups and DENS was chosen from hundreds of nominations across the country.

The charity’s work is ‘very much admired’ by the independent Assessment Committee, which looks for evidence of outstanding standards in volunteering, goodwill and respect as well as determination to overcome any obstacles.

The award – which is the highest a voluntary group can earn in the UK – was created by The Queen in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee.

It recognises excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community. The winners are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. DENS chief executive Andrew Liversidge said: “To be in receipt of the QAVS is a tremendous achievement for DENS and our volunteers should feel immensely proud of the recognition which this award represents.

“I wish to say a very sincere thank you to all our past, present and future volunteers.”

Andrew and wife Margaret attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace on May 19, where they met the Queen and other winners of this year’s award.

Chair of trustees Malcolm Lindo said: “As an organization we are delighted and honoured to receive the prestigious QAVS.

“My hope is that it inspires many more people from the local community to come forward to help us in tackling the growing problems of homelessness and poverty within our area.

“There are so many varied ways in which people can get involved.”

Each year, more than 200 volunteers work for DENS – which is the equivalent of 12 members of full time staff.

As former volunteer co-ordinator, Sandra Williams said: “Volunteers are hugely important to DENS; if volunteers weren’t here, DENS would not exist.”

DENS was originally founded as a response to poverty and homelessness after volunteers from local churches came together to cook hot meals and gather bedding for those in need. Andy Ricketts, who is a former user of DENS’ services. said: “Every single person that gives up their own personal time for DENS is a truly unique and fabulous person.

“Each one of them has a welcoming smile and not one ever judges. I truly believe that DENS saved my life.

“I walked into DENS, ready to die, I cried, full of despair, I was listened to, I was helped, I began to smile, then laughed.

“Now I feel alive, because of DENS, their support workers and volunteers. My image of DENS is that of a hand reaching down to pull another up from the depths of despair to the path of a new life.”

DENS is one of 193 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award in 2016.

A full listing is published today in a special edition of The London Gazette, www.thegazette.co.uk

DENS is now entitled to display the special QAVS logo on stationery, publications and website.

A signed certificate from Her Majesty The Queen and an English Crystal with the logo insignia will be presented to DENS by the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, The Countess of Verulam later in the summer.

Former volunteer and long serving staff member, Carol Wolstencroft will represent DENS when she attends a special patron’s lunch at The Mall in celebration of the award on June 12.