Charity Commission CEO among civil society figures to receive a King’s Birthday Honours award

Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson is among charity sector figures to be recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Stephenson, who is stepping down this summer after seven years leading the regulator, has been named a dame.

The award comes a decade after she was handed a CBE for services to civil society in the 2014 royal birthday honours list.

She is a former senior policy advisor and head of strategic policy and partnerships at the Big Lottery Fund and has also spent three years as director of early years and childcare at the Department for Education.

Her damehood “is a recognition of the essential role charities have in our society and the fantastic team who work” at the regulator, said Stephenson.

“Because of the trust and confidence people have in charities, they rightly hold a privileged place in society. Central to that trust and confidence is independent regulation,” she added.

Among charity leaders honoured is Carol Boys, CEO of the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA), who has been made an OBE in recognition of her services for special educational needs and disability, as well as to research.

“I’m absolutely delighted to receive this award; it’s wonderful to be recognised in this way,” said Boys.

“I couldn’t have achieved what I have over the years without the support of the DSA’s brilliant staff, trustees and volunteers.”

Among other charity sector recipients of an OBE is Tina Costello, who has been chief executive of the Heard of England Community Foundation for the last 11 years.

“Every day continues to be a genuine privilege to work for the benefit of communities in the region where I grew up and still live and I am overwhelmed at receiving such prestigious recognition for leading a charity that I love and truly believe in,” said Costello.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Community Foundation for the opportunities it has given me, to the donors I have had the pleasure of working with, the many colleagues I have shared my journey with and trustees who have supported my leadership.”

‘I’m still somewhat shocked’

Other charity sector recipients of honours in the King’s Birthday List include British Red Cross retail director Paul Thompson, who has been handed an MBE.

“I’m still somewhat shocked,” said Thompson, who has been with the charity for more than 30 years.

“I’ve been with the organisation for a long time, and I never thought this would come. Our charity shops are a hugely important source of funds, but they’re also a really valuable social resource, and they provide volunteering opportunities for people who want to give their time to support our work. I’ve been surrounded by such talented people throughout my career, I feel completely blessed.”

Meanwhile British Red Cross volunteers David Kennedy-Harding, from Humberside, and Lynda Jones, who is volunteer vice president for Surrey, have received British Empire Medals (BEM).

“I’ve been called out to all sorts of emergencies, from situations where there have sadly been fatalities to incidents like someone’s toaster catching fire,” said Kennedy-Harding.

“But in all cases you need to stay professional and show compassion, even if you’re churning up inside. You look after people, you stay calm and positive and help them make decisions for themselves. Ultimately, when you help someone and they say ‘thank you,’ that’s the biggest reward you can get.”

Elsewhere, Sue Ashby, chair of North West homelessness charity Stepping Stone Projects has been awarded an MBE.

Retired accountant Ashby, who has lead the charity’s board for 25 years, said: “I am deeply honoured to receive this recognition. While this is an individual award, our achievements over the years have truly been a team effort and a result of the hard work and commitment of everyone at Stepping Stone Projects.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside such dedicated staff and trustees, and to witness the positive impact we have on the lives of so many as we have grown as an organisation.”

“We were recently awarded Gold Standard from Investors in People for workplace standards, and I’m incredibly proud of my friends and colleagues who are so united in our aim to provide quality housing and get people the support they need”

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