A VOLUNTEER who leads a group helping vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic, missed out on meeting the Queen when her Buckingham Palace garden party was cancelled.

Ray Collin is head of a Wantage coronavirus support group which continues to provide prescription pick-ups, meals on wheels and helps with food shopping to many in self-isolation. He was praised for his dedicated service by the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson

After being nominated by Wantage mayor Jim Sibbald, Mr Collins was invited to the prestigious Royal Garden Party, which was due to be held this week.

Like so many events, however, the garden party traditionally hosted by the monarch to meet people who have made a positive impact in their communities, was cancelled amid the pandemic,

As a consolation, however, Mr Sibbald organised a small socially-distanced ceremony for Mr Collins.

Mr Sibbald described Mr Collins as a "stalwart of the Wantage community for more than 16 years" and said that his support group had done "an outstanding job assisting those who require help".

Mr Sibbald added: “I nominated Ray for a Royal Garden Party, which he was meant to attend on Tuesday at Buckingham Palace.

“Since it was cancelled, I decided to bring the party – while observing social distancing – to Ray with the assistance of councillor James Goodman in his capacity as chair of the Chamber of Commerce.”

In 2017 Mr Collins set up the local charity The Ray Collins Charitable Trust to formalise the work that he was already doing.

The chairman has become an irreplaceable figure in Wantage over the years through organising many fundraising activities for the town and supporting those less fortunate.

He took to social media to thank the Lord-Lieutenant – the Queen's Representative in Oxfordshire – and Mr Sibbald and Mr Goodman for their support.

He wrote on Facebook: “On such a beautiful day it would have been amazing to have been at Buckingham Palace today but it was not meant to be.

“I really hope all our wonderful volunteers get to see this lovely message as it is team effort as it always has been for the last 15 years.

“Sadly, we still have months ahead of us but we have the resources and capacity to carry on as a team making a real difference in our community.”

The Wantage and surrounding area coronavirus support group has gained major recognition locally.

It has assisted more than 50 families and individuals over 70 who have been identified as vulnerable.

More than 140 volunteers, including councillor James Goodman, who is coordinating the meals on wheels initiative, and Wantage MP David Johnston, have dealt with phone calls from thousands of residents, carried out hundreds of shopping trips and countless pharmacy prescriptions.

Mary Bowen was one of the many locals in Wantage and Grove who praised the group’s work.

She said: “Thank you very much to you Ray and to your team for being good neighbours to those housebound in the area.

In 2016 Mr Collins was given a medal of honour at the British Citizen Awards for his charity work.

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Chosen from public nominations by a panel of independent assessors, the prizes are awarded twice a year and recognise everyday people whose work has positively touched the communities in which they live.

To get in touch with the Wantage support group or request assistance, call 01235 260033.