Annie, full name Annabelle Mary Wynn, has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in the Jubilee Honours for “services to the community in Preston, Lancashire, particularly during Covid-19.”
The honour comes for helping people and the environment through her work with charity Let’s Grow Preston. This work has developed over the past 11 years and her citation noted she had become “an inspiring leader of this organisation.”
Let’s Grow Preston runs two community gardens and more than 35 other projects and schemes across the city.
Her citation noted: “During the pandemic her leadership of such initiatives resulted in over 2,400 meal bags of freshly grown produce that were distributed to the vulnerable. Schools were provided with seeds and other horticultural materials to help students grow their ow vegetables from scratch.This enabled students to grow food for themselves and their families and learn a new hobby…..She took the lead in developing various aspects of food supply and production”
Annie, 52, said: “It’s blown me away. I’m a bit in tears. I’m really proud. I couldn’t have done this without all the volunteers, trustees and staff behind me. I’ve not done it on my own. I’ve got lots of people who help and they inspire me every day.”
She said: ”I do everything from cleaning the toilets to delivering food to paying the wages to representing Let’s Grow Preston at various functions. I’ve spoken nationally a couple of times now. We’ve got about 70 volunteers on our books at any one time, we’ve got three and a half staff and the trustees and then the network is behind us as well - about 30 different groups.”
Annie who was born in New Longton and attended Penwortham Girls High School, had worked in insurance prior to following her passion for growing and community work with her role at Let’s Grow Preston.
She enrolled for a part time course at Myerscough College and when the vicar at her church, St Michael and All Angel’s in Ashton discovered her interest and qualification he declared she was the ideal person to run the church’s community garden, which she did for the following 14 years.
The Grow Preston initiative, of which she was a founding member, grew from a suggestion Preston Council’s community engagement team that all the local community gardening groups should come together and form a network.
The group now has 34 community garden group members, including the Friends of Moor Park and Avenham Park, as well as community groups such as Longridge Environment Group and numerous volunteers. She became a trustee of the group and is now employed as its Development Director following a two year stint as Project Development Manager.
The citation notes that the charity “not only provides support to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of its service users, it also enables and empowers mental health sufferers by providing them with volunteering opportunities. During Covid-19 this organisation came into its own, supporting vulnerable and isolated persons.”
Annie, who loved studying for an RHS qualification at Myerscough said her community gardening role is different: “It’s not about whether it looks like a Chelsea show garden or not, it’s whether the people are happy, whether the people feel good.
“Gardening is superb for mindfulness, teaching you patience with your medical health and physical recovery from strokes and things like that.”
It also provides social therapy, sowing seeds watching them grow and caring for them and then sharing them as a legacy – perhaps for planting in a community garden or providing vegetables to feed a family in need is also, she said, immensely therapeutic.
One of Let’s Grow Preston’s pandmeic initiatives was delivering 148 baskets of “living vegetables”to schools which were given to pupils to grow on at home.
The charity also worked with Preston city council and 41 food hubs who were delivering meals to 1,440 families a week. Annie said: “We provided the fresh vegetables for that. We were just part of a cog in a big wheel.”