A NORTH-EAST community charity has been presented with the country’s highest honour for voluntary organisations.

The King’s Award for Voluntary Service – the equivalent of the MBE for the voluntary sector – was presented to Sprouts Community Food Charity, in Stockton, by Sue Snowdon, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham.

The charity works in partnership with North Star Housing to help provide a wide range of vital support projects in the community.

Mrs Snowdon said: “It is an absolute delight to be here and to meet all these people. It really is wonderful what they’re contributing, and you can feel the warmth, the camaraderie, and the friendship as soon as you arrive.

“I’ve watched the growth of Sprouts for the last ten years, and I’ve seen the way they’ve developed and the way they’ve brought people together. It’s not just about feeding people – it’s about empowering and education.

“This award is not lightly given or easily gained. It recognises hard work, vision, commitment, and dedication. It’s highly prized and is recognised as the hallmark of excellence.”

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Sprouts was founded in 2011 as Little Sprouts, and has since become a lifeline to many families throughout Stockton by offering a community shop, foodbanks, cooking workshops, children’s holiday activities, meal services, and more.

The award was accepted by Sprouts manager, Debbie Fixter, and Joan Naylor, a Thornaby local who has volunteered for the charity for five years.

Debbie said: “For Sprouts to have such an impact, we are completely reliant on our amazing group of volunteers, who week-in, week-out, work tirelessly with compassion and commitment.

“Receiving The King’s Award for Voluntary Service is a testament to their unwavering dedication and outstanding contributions to our community. This prestigious recognition is not just an acknowledgment of their efforts, it’s a symbol of the immense respect and admiration we hold for them.

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“They pour their hearts and souls into making this community better, and we can’t thank them enough.”

Coral Smith, a community connector with North Star, said: “Sprouts is a charity run by volunteers with a deep understanding of the needs of the area at the grass roots, and my job is to help them maximise the impact they make.

“They are a small team of around 30 volunteers who make a dramatic and inspirational difference to their community, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this recognition.”