Surprise BEM for volunteer Anne

A happy Anne Barratt of Fitzalan Gems who received a BEM Award in the New Year's Honours list. Ref m

A happy Anne Barratt of Fitzalan Gems who received a BEM Award in the New Year's Honours list. Ref mhh 4825-02-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth shop owner’s services to young people have been recognised by royalty - she is set to receive the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Anne Barratt, of Dunkeswell, was told the news in November and said it was ‘torturous’ to keep it to herself until the New Year Honours were announced.

The mum, who owns Fitzalan Gems in Old Fore Street, said she was shocked to receive the letter, and instantly believed it to be a ruse concocted by her three children.

“For a week, I did not respond to it because I thought it was a joke,” said the 57-year-old. “But when nothing was said, I thought to myself, ‘this is really true’, and responded to it.”

She broke the news to her family around the dinner table, and said she was amazed by the lovely messages given to her after the news became public.

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Anne became the chairman of the newly formed Dunkeswell Youth Group in 2003 after she was approached by parish councillors.

She accepted the challenge, and despite saying she would organise the voluntary group and then step down, continues to volunteer at the club to this day.

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“I have received a lot of messages from people in Dunkeswell who see the work we all do,” she said.“We have mingled into the community and everyone turns up every week. I felt honoured and privileged once I found out about this award.

“It is a privilege working with the young people - it is truly rewarding.”

Anne will be presented with her medal at a local ceremony and attend a royal garden party in the summer.

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