Heartwarming reaction from unsung Harrogate district heroes in New Year's Honours list

Jack Laugher with Chris Mears
Jack Laugher with Chris Mears

Charity founders, aid workers and a dedicated school volunteer from across the district have received recognition for their hard work in the New Year's Honour's list.

Sue Evason, who co-founded the Jennyruth Workshop in Ripon has been awarded an MBE for services to People with Learning Difficulties in Yorkshire. heartwarming

Lady Jopling

Lady Jopling

The charity, which helps adults with learning disabilities gain work and life skills by making and selling handcrafted products, was set up by Sue along with her husband Barrie.

Her honour comes just six months after her husband was awarded an MBE for the same role and Sue admitted that she was shocked to receive the same accolade.

She said: "It was totally unlooked for and indeed I don't feel myself worthy of it, all I did was back up my husband as he set about forming Jennyruth Workshops.

"No matter how much he tells me that he could not have done it without me I still find it difficult to believe that I should have the honour.

Sue and Barrie Evason

Sue and Barrie Evason

"Jennyruth Workshops is just a wonderful place to be, so vibrant and happy with all our learning disabled colleagues happy and bright and enjoying their work.

"I don't think we ever have a visitor who does not leave with a spring in their step, knowing that they have been in a special place."

Max Mills was also awarded an MBE for his services to Education after spending 51 years as a teacher and volunteer at St John Fisher Catholic High School.

The 74-year-old started as a P.E teacher at the high school in 1964 and, after retiring 18 months ago, still volunteers by coaching table tennis and tennis.

Keith Thompson

Keith Thompson

Max said: "It is an incredibly long time to spend at one school and I don't think many people nowadays can achieve that in teaching because the job has changed so much.

"I was shocked when I first found out. The letter arrived at our house but I actually asked my wife to open it because it didn't look that important.

"People have sent me emails and text messages congratulating me including quite a few parents and ex pupils. The headteacher even invited me in to the school this week and gave a fairly long speech.

"It was not a particularly sporting school before I started and I like to think I had something to do with changing that."

Ripon's golden boy Jack Laugher was also awarded an MBE for his services for Diving after shooting to fame with his double Olympic medal heroics in Rio this summer.

The 21-year-old won gold in the 3m synchronised springboard with diving partner Chris Mears before adding a silver medal in the individual 3m springboard.

There have been calls to name Ripon's proposed new swimming pool in the diver's honour following his success and Jack said the MBE was the perfect end to the year.

He said: "I’m thrilled to be honoured with an MBE for services to diving after years of hard work and dedication to my sport.

"Receiving it, after winning Gold and Silver at the Rio 2016 Olympics is a perfect way to finish off a fantastic year."

Ripon’s Tink Palmer has also been awarded an MBE for services to abused children after setting up the Marie Collins Foundation in 2011.

While many organisations address how to identify abuse and its prevention, the Marie Collins Founndation targets the needs of children harmed online and how victims and their families recover post-abuse.

The charity, named after Marie Collins, herself a victim of child sexual abuse images in the 1960's, is now firmly established as the leading organisation of its kind.

Ms Palmer said: “I am deeply honoured to have received this recognition and accept it on behalf of Marie Collins Foundation, the children and families we assist and our supporters.

"Crimes of child abuse using digital technologies are a growing scourge of societies across the world, yet we know that, given the right support, victims can go on to lead fulfilling lives.

"It is incumbent on those of us with the knowledge and skills to use them to help young victims and their families, and to train others around the world to do the same.

"We can try to deter some online activity; we won't stop all crimes from happening but we can play a part in mitigating their effects as much as possible."

Keith Thompson has been appointed OBE in the Honour's list for his services to Humanitarian Relief and contribution to international development.

After growing up in Copt Hewick near Ripon, Mr Thompson began his international development work in Papua New Guinea in 1976.

Since then he has worked in over 40 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, including three years in Bangladesh and four years in Sierra Leone where he helped tackle the Ebola outbreak.

He said: "The work I do is hugely rewarding. Stopping the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone saved thousands of lives and prevented the disease spreading to other countries.

"The UK’s efforts were critical to this. Where I now work in Bangladesh, DFID has contributed to helping millions of people escape poverty.

"I often see how a bit of help from us enables families to transform their lives – what could be more rewarding?

"I’ve been particularly touched by the reaction of my colleagues. They know my work well and it feels good that they think I deserve this recognition."

Harrogate's Michelle Beckett has also been awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to Disadvantaged People in the UK and Abroad.

While the Vale of York's Gail Jopling has been awarded an MBE for charitable services to Children through her 17 years worth of work with Hope and Homes for Children.

The charity is leading a global movement to eradicate orphanages by moving children into loving families and providing support to keep vulnerable families together.

Lady Jopling, originally from Harrogate but currently living near Thirsk, started Hope and Homes for Children Vale of York Support Group in 2000 which, during this time, has raised more than £218,000.

She said: “I am overwhelmed and humbled by this significant honour and enormously proud of everything Hope and Homes for Children does to enable the most at-risk children to live within the love of a family and, importantly, have a future to look forward to.”