THE FERNHURST Centre – the café, internet hub and education centre in the heart of Fernhurst village – has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is regarded as the MBE for voluntary groups and recognises outstanding work by volunteers for the benefit of their community.

The Fernhurst Centre is one of just 230 charities and volunteer groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The centre’s representatives will be presented with the award later in the summer by Caroline Pyper, Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex.

The centre, established in 2003, is well known for its outstanding IT tuition and offers classes on a wide range of subjects from foreign languages to floristry and family history.

Antonia Plant, centre trustee, explained: “There is no doubt the secret of the Fernhurst Centre’s success lies in its band of more than 40 dedicated volunteers, including the tutors, managers, counter staff , administrators and trustees who give the centre its unique friendly and welcoming appeal.”

Refurbished in 2016, the centre is a popular meeting place for all ages with its state-of-the-art coffee machine and delicious refreshments, free talks and a book and DVD library as well as a host of toys for young visitors to play with.

Voluntary manager Pauline Colcutt said: “Our volunteers are the backbone of the centre’s service. They come from the local community and each person brings his or her personal approach and enthusiasm to their role. We are delighted their contribution has been recognised in this very special way and we cannot wait to celebrate with the volunteer team once we are able to re-open the centre.”

The centre has a fully-equipped training room suitable for business meetings and interviews and hosts CAB weekly drop-in sessions. Although it is currently closed to the public, as required under coronavirus safeguarding guidelines, details of the centre’s activities and courses are available at www.

The other shops and businesses in Fernhurst, kept busy supplying essential items to local residents during lockdown, have been quick to congratulate the Fernhurst Centre on its award and plans are already being made for celebrations once the centre re-opens later in the year.