Afghanistan veteran with medals and child

SSAFA volunteers listed in the Queen's Birthday Honours

23 June 2015

SSAFA volunteers listed in the Queen's Birthday Honours

Congratulations to SSAFA's Northampton South divisional secretary, Shirley Napier and Glasgow branch caseworker and fundraising coordinator, Agnes (Una) Smith on being listed in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2015.

SSAFA volunteers listed in the Queen's Birthday Honours

Both Shirley and Una have been awarded British Empire Medals (BEM) for their remarkable and inspirational work as volunteers.

Agnes (Una) Smith -  Glasgow Caseworker and Fundraising Coordinator

A mainstay of SSAFA Glasgow Branch for more than a decade, Una Smith held the appointments of Caseworker and Fundraising Coordinator, whilst also helping in many other branch activities. 

She is widely recognised as a stimulating, innovative and hard working volunteer with a warm friendly approachability that has proved powerfully effective.  As Caseworker, managing up to three cases a week, totalling 70 or 80 cases a year, she handles them with great sensitivity and thoroughness.  Her personal qualities were also especially effective in mobilising support for awareness and fundraising.

Other volunteers, sure in the knowledge that she would give more than she expected of anyone else, came forward and under her influence soon discovered the satisfaction and pleasure of being involved in this important activity.  In this role she organised widely different events, from a Street Party and Dinner Dance to mark the 60th anniversary of VE Day to regular competitions over several years bringing together teams from the Reserve Forces, Cadet Units and Strathclyde Police.  

Her special skill was in organising smaller scale events and, recognising that there was always a stronger public response to street collectors in uniform, she developed collaborative arrangements with the Parachute Regiment Association and staff of the Army Personnel Centre when people from the Edinburgh Military Tattoo gave a lunchtime show in Glasgow. 

Always looking to reduce branch costs, Una travelled to casework around Glasgow by using free public transport and gained a qualification in food safety to take on the catering for the Branch Bridge Lunch and Ploughman’s Lunch, whilst also increasing income over the ticket price by setting up stalls at these events.  In three years her fundraising activity increased annual income from such sources by more than 60%, including the astounding achievement of taking street collections from zero to £7500 each year. 

Always ready to share her expertise, she was an early adviser to Glasgow City Council’s Helping Heroes project and, utilising her previous experience and contacts from many years with NHS and TA service as a Nursing Officer, she used the medical practice premises in the city to distribute material and thereby raise the SSAFA profile.  

With a husband suffering from dementia and a handicapped adult son to care for, she involved them both in branch events and thereby found a means of wholeheartedly giving her time and effort to SSAFA.   She is a  truly inspirational and remarkable volunteer. 

Shirley Napier - Northampton South Divisional Secretary

Shirley’s almost life long association with SSAFA began nearly 60 years ago when her husband was a serving officer.  Initially recruited as secretary to the Far East SSAFA Welfare Officer in 1957 and 1958, she was again employed in a similar capacity when her husband was stationed in Aden from 1964 to 1967 and in BAOR from 1973 to 1975 at Bielefeld and Rheindahlen.  Following her husband’s retirement to Northamptonshire the local SSAFA Branch Chairman asked Shirley to become a volunteer with the branch in 1980 where she has continued to the present day, having received her 30 year’s volunteer long service award in 2010. 

However, her significance to the branch has been far greater than length of service: from the start her potential was apparent; in her first year her outstanding personal qualities, honed by the benefit of previous SSAFA experience were quickly recognised and she was appointed division secretary of the very busy South Northampton area.

 In the succeeding 33 years her annual caseload has frequently exceeded 120 cases, involving a wide variety of support activity for serving, ex-service people and their families, ranging from practical personal help and guidance to almonisation of many thousands of pounds each year for essential purchases and expenses for clients.  During the last decade, as older volunteer caseworkers have retired she has sometimes had to maintain these high activity levels single handed. 

A key member of SSAFA Northamptonshire for more than three decades, Shirley Napier has always displayed unique personal commitment and compassion in the care and help she has provided for the armed forces community; and this, combined with her comprehensive knowledge and punctilious completion of reporting and grant application processes has ensured the best possible outcome for her clients. 

For many of these clients her commitment did not end with the successful conclusion of the casework; she maintained contact, providing friendship and encouragement to individuals and families, organising when needed further help through casework.  Her record of voluntary work with SSAFA Northamptonshire in helping the armed services community is outstanding, unequalled and truly remarkable.