Four Somerset charities are celebrating after winning the coveted King’s Award for Voluntary Service (KAVS).

Equivalent to an MBE for individuals, KAVS is the highest award given to voluntary groups in the UK, celebrating outstanding work done by charities.

They are awarded annually and normally only about a third of groups nominated nationally actually receive an award – but in Somerset this year all four charities nominated were successful.

Deputy Lieutenant Jane Sedgman, who oversees the nomination process in Somerset on behalf of the Lord-Lieutenant, said:

A clean sweep for Somerset is a remarkable achievement. The award is prestigious and is an encouragement for those who give so generously of their time and expertise.

It follows an exacting assessment which is recognised and can also open the doors to funding streams which might otherwise prove very hard to access. So, there are practical benefits in addition to the emotional rewards.

This year’s local recipients are:

West Somerset Food Cupboard

Originating in 2007 from the response of a church group to real food deprivation on their doorsteps, the WSFC is now a charity in its own right. It has an approach to delivery quite unlike other food banks.

It has strong relationships with about 25 key front-line agencies, which, between them, are in daily touch with the most troubled and deprived people in the community. The WSFC relies on those agencies to identify need and to collect and deliver food boxes or parcels to people in need.

Not only does this mean that the WSFC is likely to be reaching the people most in need, but it also helps to link those people to an engagement with agencies best placed to help them address, and hopefully, move on from the issues troubling them.

The WSFC volunteers collect donated food, quality-control it, and sort it into emergency boxes which are designed to feed a family of four for three days, or bags for single people with no access to cooking facilities. Remarkably, these are accessible every hour of every day of the year. About 100 are distributed every month.

Ali Sanderson, Manager of West Somerset Food Cupboard, said:

We are delighted and honoured to receive the King’s Award for Voluntary Services. We are fortunate to have more than 50 volunteers on the team and we are very grateful to every one of them for generously contributing their time, skills and energy.

They are the reason that we are able to continue to support those in greatest need in this community each week. So, it’s fantastic to have the team’s efforts acknowledged in this way.

Refugee Aid From Taunton

Entirely volunteer run and led, it functions with minimal overheads and uncomplicated structures but has improved the lives of thousands of displaced people in Britain and abroad.

It was the brainchild of the current chair but is not dependent on any one person for success and is an outstanding example of sound delegation and teamwork.

At its heart is the belief that all people matter and everyone has something to give without pressure to offer more than can reasonably be given.

In addition to the outreach to displaced people is a secondary belief that nothing should be wasted, and from this has evolved an extraordinary network of related charities who constantly swap/trade surplus items, ensuring they reach their ultimate goal, whether in this country or abroad.

Federica Smith-Roberts, Chairperson and Founder, said:

We are extremely honoured to be recognised for our work supporting refugees and displaced people within Somerset and further afield. As a completely voluntary organisation, this award is an incredible achievement for all those who have volunteered and supported us, ensuring we have helped thousands of people along the way.

Crewkerne and District Museum and Heritage Centre

This is small independent museum in South Somerset entirely run by volunteers and is financially sound so does not rely on public funds.

It is accredited by the Arts Council as it meets all the nine standards set down

for English museums. It has an excellent inclusive planning system, which drives the development of the charity. It is supported by an enthusiastic and talented team of 60 volunteers and a ‘Friends Network’ that numbers more than 200.

It produces historical publications for sale and it attracts more than 5,000 visitors a year (pre-pandemic numbers).

The museum is housed in a Grade 2 listed building in the centre of the town. The freehold of the building was gifted to the museum and the property was rescued from dereliction through a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This work has created an attractive museum consisting of four exhibition galleries, a large meeting room, a lift to give access to the first floor, plus offices for administration, cataloguing and historical research.

Janet Harris, Volunteer Administrator, said:

We are honoured to have recognition of the time, enthusiasm and knowledge that all volunteers, past and present, have contributed to the success of our Museum and Heritage Centre.

Share and Repair, Bath

There are other repair charities, but the combination of repairing, lending, training and educating is out of the ordinary. The initiative in providing environmental lessons for schools demonstrates the wide-ranging approach of this charity. Similarly, the newly launched energy reduction workshops are an indication of the way the charity evolves through demand rather than being fixed in what it offers.

Their concept of linking environmental concerns to practical support for people in the area has produced a distinctive project, The help to others is not merely delivered as material help, but, equally importantly, provides people with the skill set to service and repair their own possessions.

The repair team take a pride in craftsmanship and in drawing back from a throw away culture.

Lorna Montgomery, Founder and Chair said:

We are over the moon! Our volunteers are the backbone and the most vital resource, of what we do and how we do it. They make it possible to realise our ambition to reach further into our communities. They all deserve this recognition and I hope it will encourage others to see the value and benefits of volunteering for a local charity.

Organisations wanting to be considered for next year’s KAVS can get all the information they need on The King’s Award for Voluntary Service webpage.

IMage of the King's Award for Voluntary Service logo which features a crown with the words

About this article

November 20, 2023

Rebecca Howat


Press Release