This is a new service - your feedback will help us to improve it.

Walsall community heroes to be honoured with a British Empire Medal

Walsall community heroes to be honoured with a British Empire Medal
Published on 14 September 2021 Print

Five local residents will be recognised for their exceptional contribution to the local community by being presented with the honour of the British Empire Medal (BEM).

They are part of a total of 46 recipients that will be presented with the award by West Midlands Lord-Lieutenant, John Crabtree OBE on Wednesday 15 September at the University of Birmingham covering the years 2020 and 2021.

The Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE believes that during the COVID pandemic, many people across the region have shown kindness and made huge efforts to support those in need and said; “The West Midlands is celebrating a record number of BEM recipients this year. Each one thoroughly deserves this Honour for their outstanding community involvement. I am thrilled to be meeting them at the Investiture and acknowledging all they do.”

Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader, Resilient Communities, Walsall Council said,

“It is amazing to hear that our very own local residents will be recognised with this honour and hope that they enjoy the day and celebrations. These people have actively contributed to their community by helping others and making their communities more resilient, especially during some really tough times with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From helping the homeless and supporting in our community associations to cleaning-up their local area and encouraging our young people with their achievements, these people have gone to extraordinary lengths to become a valued part of their community.

“I applaud their generosity and kindness of spirit and thank them with all my heart for everything that they have done for Walsall.

“There are so many people in the community doing great things so why not take the opportunity to nominate them for an award*.”

Some have dedicated countless years to volunteering, others have travelled emotional journeys that have driven them to greater achievements. All have shown good will to others. Representing all walks of life, these people have gone to extraordinary lengths to help their local communities, particularly during the COVID pandemic, and have great stories to share.

The Walsall residents to be honoured (one wished to remain unnamed) are as follows:

Karen Eccleston

Karen has made a big difference in helping homeless people in Darlaston. In 2012 she set up a soup kitchen that feeds around 40 on Saturdays and Christmas. The kitchen provides a lifeline for many, somewhere safe to go and has helped people access other services and get back on track.

Francis Hodgkinson

Francis founded Brownhills Community Association in 1980 and for over 40 years has seen the much-loved community centre flourish. Over this time many people within the community have enjoyed the adult classes, nursery provision and youth club. In addition to establishing and running community activity groups, a community theatre and courses for pupils at risk of social inclusion, he has been Chair and Vice Chair of Governors at Brownhills Comprehensive for over 25 years.

Gilbert Preece

From 18 years Gilbert started his lifetime volunteering as a scout leader and kept progressing through the scout association to Assistant District Commissioner and Duke of Edinburgh Assessor, leading more than 2000 Cubs and scouts. After 24 years , he went on to support amateur football in his Bentley and Darlaston areas of Walsall ,acting as referee and coach. When he had to stand down after 22 years he has volunteered around 30-40 hours a week for his beloved Darlaston FC as well as raising funds for the Beacon Centre for the Blind.

Balbir Seimar

Balbir has devoted her time to homelessness, reducing crime and improving the environment. She leads her church community in providing a weekly food and chat for the homeless and sits on the Walsall Police Strategic Community Reference Group supporting initiatives such as the Knife Crime Amnesty in 2019 and is a ‘Stand By Me’ ambassador. She plays a key role in campaigning to reduce plastic and has organised 20 regular canal ‘clean-ups’.

The recipients across the region alongside the five from Walsall, include six from Wolverhampton, two from Sandwell, three from Dudley, one from Oldbury, three from Stourbridge, five from Coventry, fourteen from Birmingham and seven from Solihull.


Notes to editor

·         Details of how to nominate someone for an award are available on the government website: