The Duchess of Cornwall has crowned nearly 500 volunteers “Platinum Champions”, calling them “the backbone of our country”.
Camilla headed a star-studded judging panel which included Alex Jones, Felicity Kendal, Gethin Jones, Myleene Klass, Ade Adepitan, Tom Read Wilson and Gyles Brandreth to select the nation’s most outstanding volunteers to mark the Queen’s Jubilee.
Among the winners are Brad Gartland, who set up a local male mental health support group after losing his dad to suicide, and Hagir Ahmed, who helped vulnerable people during the pandemic as an NHS volunteer responder.
Brad Gartland is among the winners (Royal Voluntary Service/PA)
Praising the 490 winners, Camilla said: “The Platinum Champions Awards, launched by Royal Voluntary Service in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s 70 years of service, have given us the opportunity to celebrate the remarkable contribution of all volunteers, who truly are the backbone of our country.
“Congratulations to all our Platinum Champions – and my heartfelt thanks to you and to the millions of volunteers across the UK who give their time and talents so generously.”
Mr Gartland, 25, from Rochdale, started volunteering at Andy’s Man Club after his father Stephen took his own life in 2016.
He later set up his own branch of the support group in his hometown.
The Royal Voluntary Service said Mr Gartland blew the judges away with his resilience in the face of such personal tragedy.
He dedicated his award to those who were struggling with their mental health.
“I sadly lost my dad to suicide in 2016 and, in his honour, was inspired to make a difference and banish the taboo surrounding male mental health,” Mr Gartland said.
“I decided to volunteer at Andy’s Man Club – a safe space where men can come to talk about any issues they may face – in the hope that I can do my bit to uplift anyone who may be facing similar difficulties.
“In 2020, I founded my own branch in Rochdale.
“I dedicate my Platinum Champion award to everyone who has been struggling, feels isolated, and feels like they can’t go on.”
Ms Ahmed, from London, said she hoped her award would inspire others to reach out and help people.
She impressed the judges with her “solid and fearless dedication and the difference she makes through her volunteering”, the RVS said.
Ms Ahmed, who volunteers several times a week, assisted a local 94-year-old woman, ensuring she recovered her independence after a serious fall.
Hagir Ahmed helped vulnerable people during the pandemic (Royal Voluntary Service/PA)
She also helped Grenfell Tower survivors, supporting them back into employment and shelter, and volunteered with the Muslim Welfare House to educate young people away from guns, knife crime and drugs.
As an NHS volunteer responder, she delivered essentials and checked on the wellbeing of vulnerable people in her community at the start of the pandemic and throughout lockdown.
Ms Ahmed said: “I believe it’s my duty to serve the community, especially the vulnerable, for various reasons and the benefits have a far-reaching and positive impact on society as a whole.
“I feel very privileged and honoured that my hard work and efforts helping and assisting others have been acknowledged and that I’ve been named a Platinum Champion.”
Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Our judging panel rose to the challenge, selecting 490 Platinum Champions from thousands of inspirational stories and dizzying achievements, spanning all corners of the UK.
“We are extremely proud of and grateful to all the Platinum Champions, each one has shown selflessness beyond measure, sheer brilliance and boundless energy.
“We are thrilled to see so many phenomenal volunteers commended.”
Seventy of the most outstanding volunteers have been invited to celebrate at a special Big Jubilee Lunch with Camilla and the Prince of Wales at The Oval cricket ground in south London on Sunday.
All 490 winners will receive a specially-designed pin and a certificate signed by Camilla.
The Platinum Champions Awards were organised by the Royal Voluntary Service, of which the duchess is president, to celebrate the 70-year reign of the Queen, who is patron of the charity.