Sheffield hero woman’s New Year’s Honours joy

Joan Harding is receiving a BEM on the new year honours list. Picture: Andrew Roe
Joan Harding is receiving a BEM on the new year honours list. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Modest community hero Joan Harding declared after being recognised in the New Year’s Honours: “I am just an ordinary person.”

The grandmother-of-two has selflessly dedicated more than 20 years of her life to a Sheffield community centre.

Joan, from Beighton, has raised thousands of pounds for Limes Community Centre – reviving and then keeping the vital lifeline open for people, young and old.

The 68-year-old, who has been given the British Empire Medal, was among community stalwarts whose efforts have been rewarded.

Sheffield railway ticket officer Ron Wiltshire, of Wincobank, who has raised thousands for the British Legion, has also been awarded the British Empire Medal. And Sybil Naylor, of Dronfield, received the British Empire Medal after devoting 30 years to St John Ambulance.

Joan said she was ‘totally shocked’ by the honour.

She added: “I am just an ordinary person, who lives in a semi, who has been doing something that I enjoy. But it is nice that ordinary people do get recognised.”

The Limes Community Centre in Beighton was built in 1955 with money raised by the community and supported by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.

On the site of former colliery housing serving Brookhouse Colliery, it started out as a thriving centre.

But after the closure of the pits, it went into decline and Joan said it was ‘in a bad state’ when she was asked by the local vicar to help bring it back to life.

She managed to secure £62,000 National Lottery funding for the derelict building in 1998 and work started to rebuild the centre.

Joan said: “There was asbestos in the roof and all sorts.

“But the community grew and grew so we decided to start a lunch club and it was so successful that we realised we need a new kitchen too. At the time there was only a galley kitchen and we needed a new one to be able to cope with so many people.”

Funds were raised for a new kitchen and the lunch club is now held every week for up to 100 elderly people.

Joan said: “Everyone is using the Limes, from babies right up to people in their 90s.”

And the pensioner shows no sign of stopping.

She said: “We’re constantly fundraising, we’ve got to keep the building in good order so the whole community can use it.”

Joan planned to surprise her family, husband Michael, 70, and daughter Michelle, 45, with her exciting news over a meal.

“I’m going to announce it to them and there will surely be champagne.”

But she insists she has not been doing her good deeds single-handedly.

She said: “It was a real team effort, there are eight volunteers at the lunch club and there are others who have helped along the way.

“I just wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”