Dame Mary Peters was guest of honour at a very special event on May 20 in the Flying Angel Centre in the heart of Belfast’s Sailortown.
The former Olympian presented awards to seven volunteers in recognition of their decades of loyal service to the Mission to Seafarers – a combined total of more than 150 years!
Dame Mary is passionate about the vital support the charity offers to seafarers who arrive in Belfast every day, some having spent months at sea – 90 per cent of all goods arrive in Northern Ireland by sea.
She said: “This place is one of Belfast’s best-kept secrets – a hidden gem. I very much hope that the younger generation among us here today are inspired to carry on the torch and continue the wonderful volunteer work at the Mission To Seafarers in Northern Ireland.”
The Mission’s new Director of Development, Jos Standerwick, also flew in from London headquarters to attend the event. He said: “It was a privilege to be invited to Belfast to show our gratitude to the Mission to Seafarers Belfast volunteers in the presence of Dame Mary Peters. The service of volunteers is at heart of the Mission and the contribution of those recognised ensure the Belfast Mission is able to be there for visiting seafarers when they need us most. Thank you!”
Frazer Black, a former cruise ship employee, has volunteered behind the bar at the Flying Angel Centre for over 10 years, allowing seafarers who haven’t seen dry land in months to relax and unwind in the cosy pub surroundings.
Marie Caulfield has spent the past 16 years volunteering at reception, offering vital assistance and information over the phone, as well as to seafarers and visitors in person.
Eleanor and Geoff Launchbury have given 20 and 30 years of volunteering service respectively. Every Thursday night Eleanor takes care of reception while Geoff mans the bar – a great team as well as a wonderful couple.
Trevor Hill, a former Ulsterbus driver, is an invaluable support at the Mission To Seafarers, turning his hand to any job he is asked to do, including the all-important shifts behind the bar.
Sally Cooke was unfortunately unable to attend on Friday to collect her award. The former social worker has given 30 years of volunteer service at reception.
Sally’s one-time colleague Colin Wilmont joined her, and has volunteered for 20 years behind the Flying Angel Centre bar.
Wendy Gregory is a nearly-lifelong friend of the Mission To Seafarers, having first visited with her aunt when she was just 16. She became the youngest person to join the Ladies Harbour Lights Guild, a seafarers’ welfare organisation that organised dances and entertainment and was recognised for her 40 years’ service.