On 10th June we were delighted to discover that our very own Sheila Meaning (co-founder and trustee) has been awarded a British Empire Medal as one of the Queen’s Birthday Honours!
For over 25 years, Sheila has worked tirelessly to serve the people in our town most would ignore or even avoid – those who are homeless. In the late 1980s homelessness was a very visible problem in our town, as it was in the rest of the country, and a number of people who attended St Mary’s decided to do something to help. Sheila Meaning was one of the volunteers who started up and manned the Tower Club, which, once a week, provided people sleeping rough with a hearty meal, a cup of tea, and a sympathetic ear. In the book about New Hope’s beginnings, Entertaining Angels, Janet Hosier (late co-founder) described Sheila:
One of the things that first struck me about Sheila, who was also volunteering at the Tower Club, was that even though she was not much over five foot and had just turned 50, she was not scared of breaking up a fight. If things kicked off, she would wade in. ‘Come on, ducks,’ she would say. ‘There’s no need for that in here.’ And instantly the situation would be diffused.
After two years the church decided it could no longer run the Tower Club, and Sheila and Janet decided to continue the work by inviting people into their own homes. It soon became apparent that the problem was too big to continue in this way, and on 23rd March 1990, Janet, Sheila and local GP Tim Robson (who was awarded an OBE last year) opened the Haven – our first official service.
Over 25 years later, New Hope supports over 600 people who are homeless or vulnerably-housed a year, and gives 56 people a safe place to stay each night. Sheila is still very much involved in our work in her role as trustee, which she has held since October 1991. She is a truly amazing woman and fully deserving of this award.
So from all of us at New Hope, well done, Sheila! You are an inspiration!
If you would like to find out more about New Hope’s beginnings, please contact the Fundraising and Communications Team on 01923 227 132 or email@example.com to order your copy of Entertaining Angels, also available from Amazon.