Sevenoaks pair recognised in the Queen’s New Years Honours list
When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, two local residents went above and beyond to help the community, and because of this both Eliza Eccelstone and Claire Ritchie have been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community, particularly during Covid 19, in the Queen’s New Years honours list.
Eliza, recognising that people would need support, set up a group called Sevenoaks Care for Our Community to coordinate those people that needed help, together with those that wanted to help. This initiative very quickly accrued a volunteer task force of over 1,500 people. Claire Ritchie, her fellow recipient, was one of those volunteers. Describing herself as ‘slightly embarrassed’ by the award, Eliza, has acknowledge all those fantastic volunteers that provided such great support throughout those turbulent times. Never one to sit still for too long, Eliza started her Clean up Sevenoaks initiative last year, and this will be returning on the 19th and 20th of March 2022.
The second recipient, Claire Ritchie, started her own initiative during this time with the Lockdown Larder, providing food to those in need. Recognising that people would still needed help after the lockdown ended, Claire decided to continue her work by forming Sevenoaks Larder, which has now become an official registered charity. Claire said that on receipt of the letter informing her of her award, her emotions were running high, recalling that she was ‘shocked’ and in ‘total disbelief’ for being recognised for her efforts. She noted that at the same time she felt a ‘little guilty’ as she could not have provided the service without her hardworking team, who she stresses are equally worthy of recognition. With future ambitions to introduce one on one cookery classes and debt advice services, she is determined to expand her support to vulnerable residents of the community.
As part of their awards, both Eliza and Claire will attend a ceremony at Chevening House, and will be invited to one of the Queen’s garden parties at Buckingham Palace. Both ladies are worthy and deserving recipients of these awards, and the people of Sevenoaks should be proud to have such inspirational and caring women in their community.