AN ORGANISER of a friendship group who helped members through the trying time of the coronavirus pandemic has been recognised with a national award.

St Helens and Warrington Oddfellows Society member, Julie Webster, has been presented with the gong in recognition of her work supporting fellow members through the Covid crisis.

Julie came first in the category of ‘Enriching Lives Socially’ at the Oddfellows’ Making a Difference Awards, held as part of the Society’s annual conference in May this year.

The award is to celebrate individuals who stand out in their ability to put on social events that help their local Branch and its surrounding communities to thrive.

Julie has been a member for over 17 years and has been a social organiser for the Oddfellows’ St Helens and Warrington Branch since 2015.

READ > Primary school rated Good in latest inspection

Reflecting on her award, Julie said: “Being a Social Organiser is really hard work sometimes, but it's very rewarding.

"Seeing people, especially people on their own, some of whom don’t have family or family close by, really enjoying themselves and laughing so much they have tears rolling down their faces, makes it all worthwhile.

"We're there for each other, one big family. I think the pandemic highlighted this more than anything.”

Julie, who lives in Billinge, calls her members "my gang" and loves nothing better than taking them all to the seaside, followed by a trip to the pub and dancing.

Despite contracting COVID-19 herself quite seriously, Julie managed to maintain phone contact with members throughout lockdown and she set up twice-weekly Zoom sessions where members could continue to be in contact and support each other.

Describing Julie’s caring personality, one member said: “Whatever she’s facing personally, Oddfellows members are not forgotten. She has been there throughout for them and they love her for it. Julie is a brilliant organiser, keeps us well informed and enriches our lives – no one else could do the job that Julie does for our Branch.”

"We're lucky to have her"

CEO of the Oddfellows, Jane Nelson, joined in her praise of Julie and added: “Despite being badly struck down with Covid herself, Julie was there for the members continuously – not only in a social aspect but as a friend, and a listening ear.

"People like Julie are the very foundation of the Oddfellows – we simply wouldn’t be the Society we are without her and her like. We’re lucky to have her amongst us.”

Julie is pleased to be getting her ‘gang’ as she calls them, back to normal, organising day trips as well as the regular coffee mornings.

To find out more about the Oddfellows in St Helens and Warrington, please call 01744 755418 or the membership helpline on 0161 832 9361.