Moray Councillor Lorna Creswell BEM looks back on a life of volunteering

By: Shaun Moat0 comments

Source: Northern Scot

A MORAY councillor has been recognised in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her decades of voluntary work.

Cllr Lorna Creswell (Independent, Forres) heard she was one of 414 unsung heroes from across the United Kingdom when Moray Lord Lieutenant, Major General Seymour Monro CBE, wrote to inform her that she has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for “hands-on service to the local community”.

She said: “I didn’t open the envelope until my daughters and I could have a small toast. The letter recognised me being a central part of Moray Firth Credit Union, Forres Area Community Trust and other organisations which support our community. I was also thanked for helping those struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and for linking with the Moray Emergency Relief Fund team.”

She added: “This award is more for the people I represent, those who are connected with me and who also volunteer to help make the area a better place.”

Lorna and her proud daughter Sonja Creswell celebrating the recognition.
Lorna and her proud daughter Sonja Creswell celebrating the recognition.

Lorna has seen volunteering as a way of life since she was a teenager.

She said: “Living independently in Aberdeen as a lone parent taught me that I had to either study more to gain a profession or claim benefits. Fortunately I had access to childcare which allowed me to study, work and help out at youth clubs.

“The 62 Club in Summer Street gave me the experience I needed for my first job at Forres House Community Centre in 1980. The post had a house attached next door and was ideal for schools and services for my daughter.”

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Lorna spent a lot of her summers in Forres helping to run the Hi Jinx play scheme – organised and facilitated by volunteers – that offered fun activities to around 100 primary children on every weekday of the holidays.

She said: “It was affordable and included children that were being looked after or had additional needs. The contact with fellow parents was illuminating and hearing some of them say they wanted to study or work but there was no childcare seemed an ideal reason to set up breakfast and after school care at the community centre.”

Lorna also helped start the local credit union 25 years ago to assist families whose members had been made redundant from the McDermott fabrication yard in Ardersier. Based on the High Street, Moray Firth Credit Union now offers more than 3000 members saving facilities and loans at favourable rates of interest while promoting financial education and encouraging good savings habits.

She said: “During the coronavirus lockdown, I’ve been based there and it has given me a greater insight into delivery of the service by like-minded volunteers. Juggling virtual council meetings, as well as preparing funding applications and business plans require time. It’s exhausting but exciting! Much can be done with our excellent secretary Tina Coffey and the rest of our trusted team.”

The great-grandmother believes everyone should have the opportunity to make a contribution to the community as a volunteer, as everyone has something to offer.

She said: “You meet new people and that team begins to work for the greater good. In Forres, numerous charitable groups and social enterprises work towards making the area all it can be.

“The Forres Alternative Festival was an arts-based project I instigated when working with the Children 1st charity. It brought out the best in young people who had been marginalised and linked them with community groups.”

Lorna and her daughter Ashleigh Murdoch opening the letter of award.
Lorna and her daughter Ashleigh Murdoch opening the letter of award.

Lorna has been overwhelmed by messages of congratulations on her latest achievement.

She said: “Who’d have known this would’ve come to someone like me? It demonstrates how anything is possible for ordinary people who network and get involved.

“Thank you to whoever was involved in the nomination. And many thanks for all the good wishes I have received from across the globe as well as home in Aberdeen and Forres. I’ve been truly touched by them.”

Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead offered his congratulations.

He said: “Lorna has been at the centre of community life for as long as long as most of us can remember and this recognition is very well deserved. Her contribution ranges from supporting many good causes over the years to helping out more recently with the Covid crisis.”

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