British Empire Medal for Denbigh social club's ‘backbone’


Josh Morris

A man described as the backbone of a social club for people with learning difficulties has received the British Empire Medal.
John Vaughan Williams, 74, from Abbey Court, Denbigh has been involved with the club since its birth 39 years ago and is currently the club’s secretary.
John has also taken a group of members to the annual MENCAP holiday by driving the minibus and organising activities each year since 1984.
He was awarded the accolade in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to adults with learning disabilities in Denbighshire through the Denbigh Gateway Club.
The club meets on a Friday evening at the Eirianfa community centre and has more than 60 members, with more than 40 attending each week.
John received the medal from the Lord Lieutenant of Clwyd, Henry Fetherstonhaugh, at the Eirianfa Community Centre on Friday.
Eleri Davies who attends the club said: “I have five brothers. If anyone said that I should have another one I would definitely choose John as he doesn’t judge us. We are all friends in club, not the 'carers and members'. We are all equal.”
According to his co-organisers at the club, John provides friendship, support, care and guidance to all those involved. He is treasurer of the local Mencap committee  and is chairman of the Eirianfa Community Centre.
Sixteen years ago the centre was facing closure. John has worked tirelessly to ensure it has remained open for use by the local community. 
He willingly acts as booking agent, caretaker and cleaner as the need arises.
Speaking after the presentation, John said: “It is a privilege, an honour and a source of great pride to receive an award in the Queen’s Honours for services to people with a learning disability.
“My involvement with both Mencap and the Gateway Club has given me great pleasure over many years and has been a source of inspiration in my life and
“I have benefited greatly by my experiences with the Gateway family as it has helped me to understand the importance of real values; that of trust and honesty, commitment and patience, the value of team work and true friendships and most of all humility.”

See full story in the Free Press

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