Founder of Wigan community group Fur Clemt receives MBE
She has been given the honour for her tireless work supporting the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shirley Southworth, who set up Fur Clemt six years ago and is now director of the organisation, has received the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
She is being recognised for her services to the borough’s residents during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
She also paid generous tribute to the organisations the group partnered with during the pandemic and the teams of volunteers and staff for their efforts.
Shirley, 60, said: “It’s all a bit crazy. I got an email from the Cabinet Office and it’s not every day you get one of those. It came as a shock but it’s nice to be recognised.
“I don’t think you realise what you are doing until you see it all written out. You just do things because they need doing and you just get on with it.
“At the beginning of lockdown I was anxious that we could lose the organisation, but we came through with the furlough scheme and some funding for us.
“At times it can be very precarious running a not-for-profit but we’ve come out stronger. We’ve got a really dedicated team who have made this happen, it’s not just about me. I’m really proud of what we’ve all done.”
During the pandemic Shirley worked with Wigan Council to ensure people in need were fed, expanding Fur Clemt’s work of redistributing edible food that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Her team, which included some redeployed local authority staff, packed up hundreds of hampers at the Montrose Avenue headquarters which were then distributed by volunteers from The Old Courts.
The team of helpers she led ensured more than 300 tonnes of food were diverted from bins to bellies during Covid.
Shirley also cooked 400 meals each week to be sent out to Age UK service users.
The social enterprise pantry remained open at Fur Clemt, making surplus groceries available to families at low cost and providing treats such as takeaway afternoon teas.
Shirley also distributed food hampers locally and befriended one elderly resident with no support network, providing homemade meals and a socially-distanced chat each week.
Shirley said: “We had people on furlough, people out of work, people who were self-employed or running small businesses. They were all in a situation where they didn’t have money. We also had older people who couldn’t get a supermarket slot and couldn’t get out to get supplies.
“It was a massive effort from lots of different organisations.”
Fur Clemt, which means “very hungry” in Wigan dialect, is part of the Real Junk Food project and now supplies community pantries across the borough with food.
The organisation has also developed memories sessions for people with dementia, cooking classes and low-cost hygiene certificate training.
It helped provide free packed lunches for school children during the holidays and volunteers at Wigan homelessness charity The Brick, with Fur Clemt cooking for its night shelters.
Shirley predicts that more support will be needed in Wigan over the coming months as the furlough scheme ends.
She says the organisation also has big plans for the future, including moving to a new location in Worsley Hall.
Shirley is also training to be a debt counsellor to distribute fuel vouchers and signpost customers to support.
An MBE has also been awarded to Liz Tapner from Skelmersdale for services to social enterprise.
The 65-year-old is CEO of Selnet and has demonstrated how single-parent survivors of domestic violence can build on their lived experience to help others.
She has held workshops for unemployed people, inspired disadvantaged women to form businesses and supported ex-offenders.
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