Two members of the Belfast Cathedral community, Stanley and Noreen McIlroy, were among the winners of the inaugural Spire of Hopes Awards distributed on February 6.
Other winners were a centre in Ballymena which enables families and individuals deal with a range of addictions, and Rotary International for its response to disasters around the world.
The Awards were presented by Dame Mary Peters during the annual Good Samaritans’ Service in St Anne’s Cathedral when cheques were presented to representatives of 180 charities and community groups.
The Spire of Hope Awards earned their name from the Spire that soars above the city centre cathedral. Last year the Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey invited nominations of individuals and groups who had given outstanding service.
Belfast couple Stanley and Noreen were recognised in the awards for the outstanding fundraising achievements. Dean McKelvey said: “For half a century they have organised collections for a variety of charities but in particular for Cancer Research for whom they have raised almost £1,000,000.
“I was in their home a couple of years ago when Noreen had fractured her leg and there she was with her leg strapped, resting on a stool, and on her lap a tray with piles of the small coins preparing yet another bank lodgement.
“They are a fantastic team who throughout their marriage have made an immeasurable contribution in their service to this Cathedral, Cancer Research, and several other charities.”
The second inaugural Spire of Hope Award was presented to The Hope Centre in Ballymena, a community-wide effort to raise awareness among all age groups of the dangers of addictions.
The initiative was established initially by families who were struggling with addictions themselves.
“Whilst this is a challenge worldwide here is an example of good practice over 10 years assisting churches, community groups, schools, families and individuals,” Dean McKelvey said. He thanked the rector of Ballymena, Canon Stuart Lloyd for bringing this valuable work to his attention. The award was presented to Billy Morgan and Trish Cathcart.
The third Award went to Rotary International throughout Ireland in recognition of their Shelter Box scheme.
“Shelter boxes contain the basic necessities of life. I saw them in use in Sri Lanka after the major Boxing Day tsunami,” Dean McKelvey said.
2010 not only marked the ten year anniversary of Shelter Box, but saw the charity face some of its biggest challenges. Rotary International in the UK and Ireland deployed more than 40,000 ShelterBoxes in response to 21 disasters, including the Haiti earthquake in January, the Pakistan floods in August and more recently the tsunami in Indonesia.
The Award was received on behalf of Rotary International by Rotarian Ernest Lawson of the Portadown Branch.
Each of the recipients receive an additional £1,000 for their charity and community work.