Reporter Debbie Sutton speaks to community champion Shirley Franklin
Last week the Driffield & Wolds Weekly brought you the news of community champion Shirley Franklin who proudly collected her MBE at Buckingham Palace for her outstanding service to the local community.
Reporter Debbie Sutton went along to meet the inspirational 91-year-old and discovered where her love and passion for community work originated and what drives her to keep volunteering.
To look at Shirley Franklin it is hard to imagine she celebrated her 91st birthday a couple of months ago.
She is often seen riding her bike through Driffield on her way to look after the plant tubs in the town or at the railway station or to volunteer in Saint Catherine’s Hospice or Dove House Hospice charity shops.
But for Shirley her community work is a labour of love. She has always been involved in charity work and helping people and she believes it is what keeps her so young at heart.
She said: “I have a happy life. I am blessed with good health but I believe that is because I am so busy all of the time.
“I enjoy all the different activities and groups I am involved with and I have so many wonderful friends through them all.
“I believe it is that which keeps me so fit. I worry that when some people get older they find themselves becoming lonely, but voluntary work is a wonderful way to socialise and meet new people and I enjoy it all so much.”
To find her roots in community work, you have to go back to her school days during the war. Shirley attended St Margaret’s School at Scarborough before all the pupils were evacuated to Castle Howard during the Second World War.
Shirley recalls the mantra of the school. “We were taught to never put ourselves first and always to do what we can to help others and that has stayed with me throughout my life.”
During the war Shirley’s involvement with the Women’s Institute saw her recruiting blood donors, which included her own mother. She ran the local National Savings Certificate Scheme, which was used to help fund the Pickering Spitfire, and she used to collect rosehip syrup for babies.
Her involvement with the WI continues to this day and Shirley will be taking along her MBE to show her fellow members and speak about her trip to Buckingham Palace where she was bestowed the honour by HRH Prince Charles.
One of her longest standing involvements has been with the National Children’s Society, of which she has been a member for over 70 years and she only retired as chairman of the Driffield branch when she turned 90 last year.
She said: “It is through the Children’s Society how I first became involved with the local community in Driffield because when I moved here in 1960 my name was put forward for the local branch and my involvement began then.”
Shirley’s involvement is still as strong as ever. Last weekend she was involved in organising the annual Christingle Service at All Saints Church, which included producing the Christingle candles in the oranges for the children.
Shirley added: “The Christingle Service is a wonderful celebration which helps raise valuable funds to help vulnerable children and young people.”
In February next year, Shirley will celebrate her 25th anniversary of volunteering for the Saint Catherine’s Hospice and Dove House Hospice charity shops in the town.
She said: “I still volunteer twice a week in the shops. I help to size and tag the clothes but I no longer work the tills. I stopped that when they all became electronic, I felt I was too old to learn how that all worked.”
Perhaps Shirley is most well known for her work with Driffield in Bloom.
She was a founder member of the organisation when it set up in 1999 and still regularly tends the flower beds and tubs around the town.
She said: “I really enjoy my work with Driffield in Bloom. I find it very satisfying and I have so many good friends in the town through this involvement.
“As well as looking after the hayracks in the town and the tubs at the station, we also look after the gravel garden at the railway station and maintain the garden at Alfred Bean Hospital and the Pinfold at the top end of the town.
“One of the biggest tasks is watering all the plants, but we have so much support from the people in Driffield and from the local businesses that let us use their water supplies and outside taps. It is wonderful.
“We fundraise to be able to buy new plants to keep the town looking colourful. Last week we held a fashion show at M&Co which raised over £200 to buy new flowers.”
Through her work with Driffield in Bloom, Shirley helped to launch the Children’s Armistice service held at Driffield cemetery on the first Sunday in November each year.
Shirley was also a trustee of the Driffield Millennium Green Committee until resigning last year and was involved with Dusting Down Driffield, a multiagency group of volunteers who help to keep Driffield clean and tidy.
Despite all of her charity and community work, Shirley still found the time to work and raise a family. She worked at Vertex Optical on Skerne Road as a progress chaser liaising between the factory and the opticians until she retired at the age of 60. She has two daughters Sarah and Candy, two grandchildren and one great grandson.
When Shirley talks about receiving her MBE, she is clearly still shocked and honoured to receive the recognition.
She said: “I was absolutely bowled over when I received notification back in May to say I had been nominated and accepted. It is not often I am speechless but it is such a great honour for me.
“I feel there are so many people doing such good work and I do it for the sheer pleasure. I love being involved with all the different organisations and meeting new and interesting people. It helps to keep me fit and while I am able I will keep going and do what I enjoy.”