Chairwoman Brenda Ellis awarded a BEM
IT WAS joining the school Parent Teacher Association and becoming chairman that led Brenda onto decades of community work.
The mother of two and grandmother of three comes from a family of community-minded and caring people.
That ethos has driven her to help charities and individuals for nearly 40 years and led her to being awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s birthday honours list for 2022.
Brenda, who lives in Clacton, said: “When I got the letter about the BEM I felt completely embarrassed about it.
“There are so many people that do a great job who are out there working hard and supporting the community, that I considered turning it down – it was such a shock.
“To me, it’s about what Community Voluntary Services Tendring (CVST) does and the other organisations I’m a part of.
“If this award brings attention to the work undertaken by local charities and can enhance what they do then this is great.”
In the late 80s Brenda joined the Clacton and District Spastic Society, later to become known as SCOPE, as a trustee.
She would also help the then Clacton Hospital League of Friends where her mother volunteered – often being asked to bake items, such as 100 scones for a fundraising tea party.
Later she joined herself and became chairman, helping to raise funds for the hospital until about 2002 when she stepped down.
In 1997, after being struck by the loneliness suffered by residents in Clacton over the festive season, Brenda and the then headteacher of Clacton County High School, launched the Christmas Day Lunch.
The event served Christmas dinner to more than a hundred people each year, with the help of numerous volunteers.
Brenda said: “After a few years John wanted to retire, and it was then we took it on as a family.
“We ran it for about 20 years and when my grandson was born, we took him along as a baby and people would hold him.
“It was always such a lovely day.”
Clacton Rotary Club took over the dinner, but Brenda and her family felt lost at home on Christmas so instead began a Christmas Day lunch for bereaved residents until Covid-19.
Brenda has helped many organisations over the years, including being chairman of Age Concern in Clacton briefly.
After having spent 15 years as chairman of the Clacton Concert Orchestra, she is now vice-chairman.
She is also still on the board of Essex Carers Support, is an Honorary Local Representative for the ABRSM music education body and sits on the board of funding charity Grassroots having taken over after the death of her husband, Tony.
Brenda is also chairman of CVST where she formed the Imperial House Community Information Centre, founded the Clacton Bereavement and Friendship Club, and continues to lead the way in helping the community in many ways.
She added: “CVST is the closest thing to my heart, I cherish it and it’s a joy to be able to impact in this organisation.
“I’ve always been community minded.
“I’ve had an amazing life and an amazing support network so I felt it’s right I should put something back.
“If I can help someone I will.
“I’m proud of the organisations I am a part of, I’m proud of CVST and what it does.
“I’m at the helm but it’s not me that does these jobs, it’s the people.
“From my experience, without question I would recommend anyone to volunteer, don’t be frightened by it, don’t be off put by it, you will get so much from it.”
Brenda will be presented with her BEM by the Lord Lieutenant and invited to a royal garden party in recognition of her.
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