British Empire Medals for deserving locals

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Mr Michael Francis Dixon from Lisburn has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to people with learning disabilities in Northern Ireland through Stepping Stones NI.

Michael, who is a founding member and the first chairperson of Stepping Stones NI, is passionate about changing attitudes and perspectives towards adults with a learning disability or difficulty.

He worked tirelessly with the then Down Lisburn Health and Social Services Trust at the time and other parents, carers and business people to establish the first support services in Lisburn with the creation of Stepping Stones NI in 1996.

Stepping Stones NI has grown extensively in the last eighteen years with Michael playing a pivotal role in its development. Michael served the board of Stepping Stones NI for fourteen years retiring in 2012. He was an active member particularly in the area of fundraising having raised in excess of £285,000.

Michael is humbled to receive the award. “It has came as a great surprise and is indeed a great honour to be awarded the BEM,” he said.

“I am proud to have been part of Stepping Stones NI and to have worked with a committed team of people who are passionate about supporting adults with a learning disability or difficulty to realise their potential for a better future.”

Stepping Stones NI Chief Officer, Paula Jennings, added: “I am delighted that Michael has been honoured with a BEM for his services to people with a learning disability and difficulty.

“Michael is one of the most visionary, determined and passionate people that I have met and it has been a great pleasure to work alongside him over the last 18 years.”

Miss Edith Victoria McConnell was also awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the community in Northern Ireland.

From her teenage years Edith was involved in youth work within the church and the wider community and for many years helped with inter-church youth camps.

She worked in finance and administration at Lagan Valley Hospital for 38 years and is currently a member of the Lagan Valley Ex-Patients Guild that runs the hospital shop, all the proceeds from the shop is used to purchase equipment for use within the hospital.

The McConnell family were foundation members of Railway Street Presbyterian Church and Edith was a Sunday School teacher and an officer in the Life boys (Boys Brigade) for many years. She was ordained an elder of Railway Street Presbyterian Church in June 1986 and is a member of the Friendship Visitor team. In 1992, she was appointed Freewill Offering Secretary and managed the difficult years of the change to computerised FWO records. Edith endeavours to keep the church computerised records updated.

BEMs were also awarded to Mrs Ellen Colgan, Mr Desmond Jardin, Mr Thomas George Kirkham, Mr Ian David McCullagh, Miss Emma Mary Regan, and Mrs Elsie Vance.