A MALPAS-BASED volunteer has praised the work of a Cheshire group that supports older people after it was given a Queen's Award for its valuable contribution to voluntary work.

Geoff Gilbert, 80, from Malpas, has been ringing isolated older people in the village since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown after becoming a volunteer for the Older People Active Lives (OPAL) service.

He admits that talking to people has not only helped their lives but has enriched his own as well.

“Through befriending during COVID-19 I have learnt lots more about the members I ring," said Geoff.

"I’ve found out things about the local area I didn’t know and it’s a real delight to phone them.

"Getting a mine of incredible information from the members, learning about them. The dialogue with the members is one of the best bits about volunteering.”

OPAL scooped the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this week in a virtual event, with Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs M.B.E, K.St.J honouring them with the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK – along with a signed certificate from the Queen and an invitation to the Royal Garden Party next year.

“OPAL Services truly is a remarkable organisation which provides what I can only describe as a lifeline for older residents in rural villages throughout West Cheshire,” said the Lord Lieutenant.

“Thanks to their team of very special volunteers it puts smiles on people’s faces and it brings happiness and purpose back into the lives of many.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, added: “This award is such wonderful news and very well deserved by a group of volunteers who are making a real difference to people’s lives within their own communities.

“One of my top priorities is helping to develop stronger communities in our borough and encouraging everyone to play their part in tackling the challenges we face, as this is the only way we can succeed."

OPAL was founded in 2011 and offers the opportunity for older people and their carers to get out and connect with their community in numerous ways.

Jane Colville, chair of the Board of Trustees for OPAL Services, said: “We’re so delighted to receive this award as a tribute to our volunteers. They really are at the heart of our charity and we couldn’t function without them."

Those interested in finding out more about volunteering for OPAL can contact volunteering@opalservices.org.uk