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Sheringham charity workers made MBEs

PUBLISHED: 16:13 18 June 2008 | UPDATED: 12:44 20 May 2010

Two north Norfolk sisters who set up a charity to provide housing for needy local families have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Gillian and April Wilson have been made MBEs for charitable services to their north Norfolk community.

Two north Norfolk sisters who set up a charity to provide housing for needy local families have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Gillian and April Wilson have been made MBEs for charitable services to their north Norfolk community.

The tireless charity workers, who are both in their eighties, were instrumental in setting up the Stable Door Housing Trust in Sheringham and have also helped a number of other local charities.

The Stable Door bought its first house 15 years ago after the sisters became concerned about the difficulties faced by local families looking for homes.

They recruited the help of representatives from churches at Sheringham and Upper Sheringham and, after a huge fund-raising drive, the charity bought its first house, a small bungalow, for £25,000 in 1994.

A further six homes followed and, while that first property is now worth about £175,000, the charity's total property portfolio is now worth more than £1m.

Stable Door chairman Clive Hedges praised the sisters for their vision and drive.

"I couldn't think of two better people to get the MBE," he said. "They are absolutely amazing ladies who think of everybody but themselves.

“There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe those two ladies.”

The sisters said that, after being forced to turn down an invitation to the Queen's garden party after a much-loved tenant died from cancer, they were delighted but "overwhelmed" by the honour.

April, 83, said: “We got a letter a couple of months ago but we didn't think anything of it so we just couldn't believe it when we heard.”

The charity mainly helps families waiting on the council's housing list or who are unsuitably housed in less than ideal conditions.

When one of its properties becomes available for rental the Stable Door now receives up to 16 applications from prospective tenants. But with such a long waiting list not everyone can be helped.

“It is very heart-rending as we know perfectly well that we can't help them all, and you keep thinking about the ones you haven't been able to help and wondering what has happened to them,” Gill, 84, said.

A former Wren, Gill worked as a teacher in London and Leicester before returning to Sheringham to set up the Hilbre School for children with behavioural problems.

She and April, a retired speech therapist, have been involved in a number of charities, including Mencap, the Autistic Society and the north Norfolk branch of Amnesty International.

They also set up a local Good Neighbours group helping elderly and disabled people with hospital transport and personal care.

*Honour for auctioneer - page 7.


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