SOME North-East organisations have been awarded a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK – the equivalent of an MBE.

The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT), with its dedicated teams of volunteers in Darlington and Greater Manchester, and Durham University’s Student Volunteering and Outreach group have both been awarded the prestigious accolade.

TBBT, a food redistribution charity, makes food affordable for people on low incomes by redistributing surplus from supermarkets and manufacturers.

The organisation has more than 8,000 members across Darlington and Greater Manchester, and is currently working at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic supporting projects from Teesside to Lancaster in over 30 locations, as well as its central warehouse.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 Durham University students undertake volunteering each year, giving a total of over 40,000 hours of their time. The university hopes to increase volunteering to 100,000 hours per year by 2027.

They support over 80 projects in North-East covering social inclusion and complex needs, education, the environment and sport and physical activity.

TBBT and Durham University’s Student Volunteering and Outreach group are just two of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award, which aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities, this year.

The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

TBBT CEO Mark Game said: "Receiving the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the perfect celebration and recognition that our volunteers are fundamental to the TBBT operation.

"We simply wouldn't exist without them. Over 160 individuals volunteer each week at our community hubs, and whilst many of our regular team are self-isolating in these complicated times, we have been bolstered by the volunteer forces of furloughed staff from local businesses, housing associations, schools, students, teachers, parents, friends and family. It's a true team effort.

"TBBT prides itself in uniting its local communities and this award is a real reflection of the esteem and gratitude we have for our volunteer teams."

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Jeremy Cook, pro-vice-chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “This is a great honour for Durham University, of which we are very proud.

“It is a tribute to all of our community-spirited students who give endless hours of their own time to supporting good causes, both locally and further afield. I also want to thank our many community partners who work with us to host student volunteers. Our students could not make the difference they make without your support. This award is also a recognition of your success.”