A philanthropist recognised in the King's first New Year's Honours list for his service to the Ledbury community, was presented earlier this month with the British Empire Medal.

Gavin James, 72, "has a remarkable record of helping others," read the citation by Air Commodore Tim Dawson DL, "and he has made a positive difference to individuals and to local charities for many years." Among the many projects Mr James has initiated were the installation of a new kitchen at Bromsberrow Community Kitchen and donations to food banks in Ledbury and Hereford.

Present at the ceremony in the Jacobean Ceremony Room in Ledbury were Lord Lieutenant Edward Harley OBE who presented Mr James with his medal on behalf of the King, Air Commodore Tim Dawson DL, Chairman of Herefordshire Council Sebastian Bowen, Ledbury Town Mayor Phillip Howells, Jake Brown the selected cadet who assisted the Lord Lieutenant, along with Richard Thomas who nominated Mr James for his award, the supporters who submitted letters of support for the nomination, various family members, close friends and works colleagues.

"I worked with Gavin at The Helping Hand for 11 years," said Mr Thomas, "and I could see first hand what was going on and how generous he was, and I though he deserved to be recognised. So I thought when I retired, that I would make it my mission. And listening to the citation I thought, yes, I'm really glad I did this."

Accepting his medal, Mr James thanked Richard Thomas for all his hard work in nominating him, the supporters for their endorsements and all the local dignitaries and guests for attending.

He went on to say when he first heard the news from the Cabinet Office he was totally shocked and thought they had got the wrong person. 

"It took me completely by surprise," he said. He recalled a conversation he had with his father many years ago regarding philanthropy, in which his father said that the best gift you can give anybody is employment.


Throughout the 50 years of owning The Helping Hand Company, which manufactures homecare products and aids for daily living, he has employed thousands of people within the community of Ledbury and the surrounding areas, and hopefully been able to make a positive difference to their lives.

"The people of Ledbury have been very supportive of Helping Hands Company, and it's a great pleasure to put something back into the community. I will continue to support causes in the area," he said.

"Basically the wish is to inspire youngsters, and if you can inspire them to become community minded, you've put something back."

Part of the award was being invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, which he and his wife Helen attended last week.

"It was amazing," he said.

"It was a spectacle and to be part of that was great fun."