It’s been a year since the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. It was a very proud, historic moment for our charity – and it’s all thanks to the dedication and hard work of our many volunteers.
This year saw the return, after three years, of invitations to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Garden Party.
The parties, which are held during May, are used by the Palace to recognise and reward public service, with guests nominated by a network of sponsors, including lord lieutenants, government departments, the armed forces and faith groups.
As is custom, Queen’s Award winners receive a pair of tickets which we then allocated to two of our most deserving supporters, Anne Parsons and Michael Epstein.
In addition to considering the traditional work of the nominated charities, last year’s QAVS judging panel also considered each organisation's response to the Covid pandemic.
I was extremely proud of the Taxi Charity's response during those difficult times and witnessed at first hand my wife, Anne’s, incredible contribution throughout.
As the charity's bookkeeper and minute-taker, much of the essential work Anne does goes on behind-the-scenes and is largely unnoticed.
However, I can attest to her contribution and to the additional workload she took on throughout the pandemic – especially during the challenging months of lockdown as we explored different ways of supporting veterans during the emergency.
Anne helped organise and distribute veteran goody bags and came up with some imaginative ideas for keeping in contact with veterans, such as a regular newsletter.
During the pandemic, she formed a support bubble and kept in daily contact with Harry Rawlins, a 96-year-old veteran who had been left isolated by the Covid restrictions. She also organised his shopping, medical/ vaccination appointments and helped him at home.
Michael Epstein has been a volunteer cabbie for the Taxi Charity for many years (he can’t remember exactly how many, but it’s over 25 years). Whilst Michael hasn’t been able to join us on trips abroad, he never misses our summer outing to Worthing – a town he has formed strong bonds with – and drives veterans to other events, including our annual Christmas lunch at Millwall FC.
Michael has helped us on numerous occasions when veterans have needed a cab and always refuses payment – even for fuel. He once made a 250-mile round trip from his home in Watford to Harwich via Bromley, enabling a veteran to join the Taxi Charity trip to the Netherlands.
On 18 May, Anne and Michael were among the 8,000 guests who mingled in the glorious spring sunshine enjoying afternoon tea and listening to music played by two military bands.
There was the opportunity to explore the gardens which span 39 acres and feature over 1,000 trees, 325 wild plant species and a central lake.
The Queen traditionally hosts three garden parties at Buckingham Palace each year. However, due to her current mobility problems, Her Majesty was unable to attend.
Representing the monarch was the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. As is tradition, the members of the royal family emerged from the palace at 4pm, all eyes upon them as the national anthem was played.
The Taxi Charity is very fortunate to have volunteers such as Anne and Michael, and I’m glad they both enjoyed their well-deserved day at Buckingham Palace.
Michael asked if I could include his own message, which I’m very happy to do:
“I am reminded of the line in an M People song ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’ And anytime I do anything connected with the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, I always know ‘What I have done to make me feel proud.’
The sheer dedication of the committee, fundraisers, supporters and drivers is beyond compare. To think of the achievements they have made over the years from very humble beginnings is awe inspiring.
Over the years I have done what I could for the charity (and that is all they ever ask for). Many have done so much more for which I feel truly humble.
As a long-term volunteer driver for the charity, I was honoured to be chosen to be a representative of the charity at the Royal Garden Party. It was a wonderful experience which I will never forget.
Times are changing and that change has been brought forward by COVID.
We, who have a deep passion for the charity, need to give our support to them to ensure their future and enable them to help the new generations of military veterans.
The foundation stone laid so many years ago has been honoured by those that followed.
So not just on behalf of the veterans, I give my personal thanks for the pride I feel being associated with the charity.”
Taxi Charity for Military Veterans