SIX Oxfordshire groups have been given a prestigious Queen’s Award for outstanding voluntary service.

The county groups have all received the highest award for volunteer groups, which is handed out to organisations around the country to recognise contributions to local communities.

Representatives from the groups attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May, before the official announcement was confirmed today.

Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson OBE, announced that Children Heard and Seen; Children’s Benefactors Board for The Oxford Children’s Hospital; Oxfordshire Lowland Search and Rescue; the OYAP Trust; The Abingdon Bridge (TAB) and The Wallingford Historical and Archaeological Society (TWHAS) have each been recognised with the award.

Mr Stevenson said: "I am delighted that the hard work and dedication of these groups has been recognised by this prestigious award."

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of The Queen's coronation and is seen as the ‘MBE for volunteer groups’, with 281 awards given out nationally this year.

Formed in 2007, The Oxford Hospitals Charity Children’s Benefactors’ Board, aims to provide vital clinical equipment to local children’s wards and has helped raise over £2 million for children’s services across Oxfordshire.

Lady Pippa Baldry, Chair of the Board, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Children’s Benefactors’ Board has been recognised for their decade of service with this prestigious honour.

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“All the members of the Children’s Benefactors’ Board are united by the same goal – to improve the lives of young patients in hospital throughout Oxfordshire, and have all given many hours and countless amounts of enthusiasm to make this possible."

Also supporting young people is Children Heard and Seen, who have been recognised for supporting children who have a parent in prison.

Likewise, the rapidly expanding TAB group provides help to vulnerable young people around Abingdon who face challenges ranging from personal anxiety arising from social media to those trying to overcome drug and alcohol issues.

The charity employs qualified and highly experienced counsellors and youth workers to provide one to one counselling to 40 youngsters each week.

Chair Christopher Bryan said all the trustees were ‘more than a little shocked and surprised’ by the ‘great honour’, adding that they were ‘enormously grateful to their volunteers’.

Meanwhile, Oxfordshire Lowland Search and Rescue, which provides life-saving search and rescue services across the county, is ‘delighted’ to receive the award.

Chairman David Woodgate explained: “This will be tremendously important to all our volunteers to receive this recognition, especially as we often cannot openly talk about the work we do, due to the vulnerable people we help.

“It is particularly meaningful to receive it this year, just over a decade after being formed and now with over 500 searches for missing people in Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas.”

In Wallingford, one local society aims to make history and archaeology accessible to all.

TWHAS’ long-running 'Burh to Borough' Project has raised awareness of the town’s rich medieval history, which led to the first ever Urban Test Pit programme, known as the TWHAS Garden Archaeology Project.

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Now approaching its 100th excavation, the society’s work has allowed the whole community to become involved and put work on display in the town museum.

Founding member Judy Dewey said the society was ‘thrilled’ by the special recognition.

Elsewhere, Bicester-based OYAP Trust uses the arts and creativity as tools for young people to explore and demonstrate their own talents.

Founder Helen Le Brocq said: “We have worked with thousands of children across Bicester since we set up OYAP 21 years ago so to receive this award this year is truly the best 21st birthday present ever.”

Any group doing volunteer work that provides a social, economic or environmental service to the local community can be nominated for the award next year.

Visit qavs.culture.gov.uk for more information - submissions need to be received no later than Friday, September 13.