TWO pensioners were celebrating today after being awarded MBEs for their work helping war veterans and families struggling to find affordable housing.
Lily Taylor, 89, from Fulwell, and Geoff Dodds, 66, from Roker, were given the awards in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
They will receive their honours at a royal ceremony in London later this year.
For 14 years, great-grandmum Lily has worked with ex-service personnel and stroke survivors in Sunderland.
Since 1997, she has been a member of the local branch of the Bomber Command Association (BCA), and has been chairman since 2000.
“I was completely shocked by the award,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Despite her arthritis, Lily has arranged and taken part in BCA trips for veteran aircrews to France and Germany, visiting sites they had only flown over during hostilities.
She was in the RAF for five years during the Second World War, starting as a balloon operator stationed in Jarrow.
“It was our job to stop low-flying bombing raids. I was then based in Lincolnshire with Bomber Command,” she said.
“It was through my service that I became involved in the BCA.
“We’ve travelled to Germany to visit Colditz and we went to France for D-Day.
“On our last trip we visited every RAF base in England.
“It keeps me very busy.”
The trips have encouraged other RAF personnel to join the BCA, making friends and sharing their wartime experiences.
Colleagues said Lily, who is also involved with the Age UK After-Stroke Club, has helped rejuvenate the branch, arranging funding for further projects.
They said it was due to her enthusiasm and innovation that the BCA had gone from strength to strength.
Lily, whose 20-year-old great-grandson is due to serve in Afghanistan with the 3 Rifles, said: “We have been pretty lucky with funding and the trips have gone very well.
“We’re hoping to run more in the future.”
Geoff Dodds is a former Hendon councillor who helped launch the Banks of the Wear co-operative housing association to help residents buy their own properties.
The initiative, which was set up in 1973, inspired similar associations.
He went on to create the Sunderland Common Ownership Enterprise Resource Centre, a development agency for business and employment.
Now known as the Sustainable Enterprise Strategies Community Interest Company, it helped launch 269 businesses in 2009, 19 of which were social enterprises, employing more than 900 people and with a turnover of £15million.
“I’m pleased with the award, but more pleased for the recognition it implies for the people who I’ve been lucky enough to work with,” said Geoff.
He has been a governor of Valley Road Community Primary School since 1984 and is founder of the Sunderland Resource Centre charity, which supports local community groups and programmes.
“I’m quite proud of the fact that my family have been serving Sunderland for 300 years,” he said. “For me, in many ways, the award is also recognition of the work those previous generations have put in.”