Thankful for so many local heroes

SIR – A few weeks ago I held a fish ‘n’ chips supper and afterwards answered questions from 120 local people.

At one point someone happened to ask me what I thought makes our area tick.

Good question I thought.

As I answered I found myself looking round the room and noting people who just happened to be in the audience and I knew had made their own quiet, yet very significant, contributions to local life.

Just in front of me sat Sean Cox MBE.

He’s just held his annual Christmas Day lunch for more than 100 elderly and otherwise lonely people.

As many of your readers will know, Sean spends each year fundraising for this special day and incredibly he has been at it for more than three decades.

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Then, over to my left, I spotted a couple of fully clad bikers.

No, they were not Hells Angels, but Steve Washington and his colleague who have taken the trouble to set up a volunteer night time emergency blood delivery service to our QE2 Hospital.

Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers or SERV is already helping to save lives because this bunch of likeminded people are able to move blood around more flexibly.

They volunteer their time each night, despite having full time day jobs too.

Next I spotted Martin Waldock.

This local resident has spent years organising volunteer litter picks throughout Welwyn Hatfield.

Some time back Martin contacted me with an idea about getting the probation service to work with him to ensure that offenders genuinely helped pay something back to society by improving the look of our local area.

Nowadays local residents volunteer and are sometimes joined by offenders in bright orange jackets as everyone works together to improve our public spaces.

Of course it’s virtually impossible to go anywhere in Welwyn Hatfield without spotting numerous volunteers from the excellent Isabel Hospice and this night was no exception.

The work of the hospice brings comfort and relief to thousands of local people during times of real need. It is a service which is nothing short of remarkable.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Jean King who has formed a charity providing help and support to people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

The group meets at Woodhall Community Centre, which is where the fish ‘n’ chips meal was taking place, and it’s hard to overestimate the positive impact this tiny charity has on the lives of all those who are touched by substance abuse.

In fact, as I looked around the room, I spotted more and more local heroes who quietly go about working behind the scenes to make Welwyn Hatfield a better place.

It is one of the great privileges of being our local MP that I get to meet so many of them.

Of course, like anywhere in the country, we have our share of problems locally.

Our QE2 Hospital is being stripped of its most important services like A&E, maternity and all operations, our town centres continue to be battered by the terrible economy and we have lost important facilities like three post offices in recent times, but we can also be proud of all the incredible people in our community who selflessly help to improve the lives of others.

As this country continues to grapple with the impact of a recession – which is longer and deeper than any that we have known in our lifetimes – it is good to know that you don’t have to scratch very far below the surface to find some very public spirited people right here on our own doorstep.

They are working to make Welwyn Hatfield a better place to live and, through your pages, I’d like to wish them and all of your many readers a very healthy, happy and, I hope, more prosperous 2010.

Grant Shapps,

Welwyn Hatfield MP.