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Sheila Betts, churchwarden at Trumpington, awarded a BEM

Sheila Betts, who is a churchwarden and long standing volunteer at St Mary and St Michael Church in Trumpington, has been awarded a BEM in New Year’s Honours List for services to Young People.

Sheila has been recognised for her varying and numerous roles in Girlguiding, the most recent and ongoing role being that of chair of the management committee of The Jarman Centre, which is Girlguiding Cambridgeshire East's residential and activity centre at Newmarket.

A British Empire Medal (BEM) is awarded for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community. This could be a long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or innovative work of a relatively short duration (3 to 4 years) that has made a significant difference. In Sheila’s case, she has been volunteering with Girlguiding since 1992, when she stepped in to allow her daughter’s Brownie unit in Trumpington, Cambridge to continue to thrive.

“My daughter Jess joined Brownies in 1991, and she had just made her Promise when I saw a notice in the shop window saying they needed volunteers to keep the unit running. So, I ended up becoming Brown Owl at 3rdTrumpington Brownies in January 1992.”

A Brownie and Guide herself in her youth, Sheila led the 3rd Trumpington Brownie unit for 20 years - from 1992 until 2012 - when she stepped back as a unit leader, remaining involved by supporting her fellow volunteers as unit treasurer. Whilst you might think that 20 years of being a Brown Owl was reason enough to be awarded a BEM, Sheila doesn’t limit her volunteering to Trumpington Brownies. With a substantial and varying list of roles held within Girlguiding - including assistant county commissioner, district commissioner for the Shelford area, as well as Communications and PR Adviser for Girlguiding in Cambridgeshire East county and for Girlguiding across the whole of the Anglia region. Alongside her Guiding roles, Sheila has also held various roles at St Mary and St Michael Church in Trumpington.

After moving to Trumpington in 1982, Sheila was soon utilising her graphic design background to produce artwork for ‘The Trumpet’, the parish magazine – something she has continued to do since 1990, as well as serving a stint as editor of the magazine. Sheila has been Parish Safeguarding Officer for her church since 2014, served a term as churchwarden from 2014-2020, and recently stepped up to serve again, in support of the then-lone churchwarden in 2023.

As a trustee for the Trumpington Parochial Charities, Sheila helps give small grants to members of the community. Grants awarded over the years have supported Duke of Edinburgh participants to complete their expeditions, allowed Brownie residentials to be accessible to all, purchased library books for local schools, funded railcards for travel to London for specialist medical treatment, and provided refreshments for a Wednesday drop-in community group.

Circa 2005, Sheila was involved in the refurbishment of Hautbois, the Girlguiding Anglia region activity centre near Norwich, improving the accessibility, environmental footprint and energy-efficiency of the centre. Hot on the heels of this, Sheila was asked to chair a management committee meeting of the Jarman centre, Girlguiding Cambridgeshire East's residential and activity centre at Newmarket, a role she still holds some 16 years later. Sheila’s project management skills were soon used again, as she got involved in the installation of an air source heat pump and refurbishment of the ‘Bakehouse’, the new church office at Trumpington.

Before receiving a BEM, Sheila had already received multiple awards for her volunteering with Girlguiding - a county Lily, an Anglia region brooch and, in 2014, a Laurel award, which is the highest award presented in Girlguiding. Sheila chatted about her BEM award, telling us, 

“I’ve always looked at my volunteering as living my faith in Christ throughout the week, not just worshipping on a Sunday. Just as it says in the Girlguiding Promise, I always try to do my best in whatever I do, but I certainly didn’t expect to receive an award for it!”

The Revd Dr Mandy Maxwell, Vicar at Trumpington, said of the news,

Sheila is remarkable and possibly the most organised person I know. Her administrative gifts and desire to reach out into the wider community are invaluable and have enriched our church family immensely. I am so pleased she has been recognised in this way for all she does. 


Page last updated: Sunday 14th January 2024 5:30 PM
First published on: 11th January 2024
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