Fylde MP Mark Menzies congratulates Woman of the Year Margaret West

A dedicated volunteer who has spent 25 years improving the lives of hundreds of people has been named Fylde Woman of the Year.

Margaret West was handed the trophy at a luncheon held at the Clifton Arms Hotel.

The event, staged by Fylde MP Mark Menzies and the Lytham St Annes Express, celebrated the often unheralded work carried out in Fylde.

Mr Menzies said to the gathered guests: “The judges told me that this year, they genuinely struggled to narrow down the field, before they had an even tougher time picking the winner.

“It has been a delight reading about what feels like a secret army of community champions making our borough all the better.

“But they shouldn’t be secret. That’s what today is about. Sharing the success stories in this room.”

Among those shortlisted, were in bloom co-ordinators, cubs leaders, those fighting against isolation, homelessness, addiction and domestic violence, those helping young women tackle peer pressure and young people to achieve their best, those helping thousands of people get fit and take part in sport, charity fund-raisers, and even a sporting world champion.

Mr Menzies told the audience: “What we have, are people to be proud of, leaders in their field.

“A lot of people will know of our eventual winner, but many won’t.

“And that’s because she is known for quietly going about her business, helping as many people as possible, with the minimum of fuss.

“A true community champion whose efforts have gone perhaps not unsung, but certainly below the radar for far too long.

“She is the reason this celebration exists – to make sure more people know about the valuable work in our community that should be on the front pages.”

Mrs West received several nominations.

For the past 25 years, she has operated a drop-in centre.

Her original base was in the United Reformed Church Hall in St Georges Road. But now, with a small band of volunteers, she offers a hot meal and a place to chat twice a week from the Aspire Building in St Alban’s Road, to some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Her original mission was to help those with no roof over their head. That has since expanded to helping survivors of domestic violence, those struggling with addiction, those struggling with loneliness, and people seeking guidance.

On meeting a young lady who had suffered domestic violence, a nominee wrote: “She guided her through the legal process and helped to sort out the practical things such as new bedding and clothes that her partner had destroyed. Having a friend like her cannot be underestimated when people feel so alone and vulnerable.”

“She’s a familiar face, making all the difference to so many lives,” wrote another nominee.

And another nomination stated: “She challenges people about destructive lifestyles but is never judgemental and helps people understand opportunities, options, and to take responsibility for their actions and decisions.”

Mr Menzies said: “All of her work, be it in her own home, in prisons, in hospitals, in other people’s homes, is voluntary.

“Fellow volunteers have worked with her for years and years and she is as passionate today as she was when she started.”

Ms West said: “I commend the judges because the work we do is not fashionable.

“A lot of people don’t like to recognise that this work is needed in their area, but it is.

“I would like to dedicate this award to volunteers across Fylde for the incredible amount of work they do. They make it such a special place to live.”

Scout leader Rose Marshall and youth worker and entrepreneur Elaine Gregoire were both highly commended.

Two of the nominations for Rose were from members of her scout group, and they attended at the end of the ceremony to congratulate her.

Judge Martin Evans, landlord at the Hand and Dagger in Salwick, told the audience: “Rose’s group is so popular it has had to be split into two nights to cope with demand.

“And she also works at Pear Tree School on the buses, but does so much more. She makes sure they’re decorated for every child’s birthday, and also at Christmas.

“And she has also been a huge supporter of the Lions’ Swimarathon.”

Rose said: “I am so thrilled that two little boys decided to nominate me.

“The scout group now has more than 100 children in it and I just love it.”

Canon Godfrey Hirst, presenting the award to Elaine, said: “She not only runs Streetwise, which regularly attracts more than 70 children to it, she has also found grant funding for events such as Time 2 Shine, which focussed on helping girls tackle bullying and peer pressure, and she opens up her home for parent and baby placements so new parents can develop the skills and confidence needed to raise a child.

“She also runs Lighthouse Leaving Care, a semi-independent home for people aged 16 to 18, to teach them independent living skills.

“And she’s a foster mum and mum-of-four who has managed to launch a Caribbean soul food company catering at events.”

Elaine said: “I am gobsmacked. It was amazing to be nominated.

“But for the record, I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband Gerry, because we are a team.

“We opened our new youth club base last week and we had more than 100 children through the door on the first night.”

The award ceremony finished with a special lifetime achievement award, handed out by the judges to event organiser Katie Fieldhouse for her vast contribution to life in Fylde. She has been a businesswoman, founded the Fylde Feast for Ten initiative, has spent years working as a carer, works with St Cuthbert’s Church, and amongst others has helped Trinity Hospice and the League of Friends of Clifton Hospital

Ms Fieldhouse said: “I did not expect it at all. I was very surprised.”

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