A CHARITY which supports adults with learning difficulties has been presented with a national honour recognising excellence in the voluntary sector.

The Open Door Centre, which holds a drop-in centre at St Barnabas Church Hall, in Gorse Hill, was given the Queen’s Award For Voluntary Service during a special open day yesterday.

The crystal award was presented by John Bush, the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, to Gerry Meale, chairman of the charity’s management committee.

Open Door was nominated for the award by Mr Meale’s wife, Jenny. Their daughter Kelly, 34, suffers from Down’s Syndrome and attended the drop-in sessions for 10 years.

Mr Meale said: “I’m absolutely delighted. The Open Door has been going for 26 years now and this is a fitting reward for all the hard work everybody has done.

“It is a team effort but the volunteers are very, very important.

“There’s more than 100 members we have got and without Open Door they would have nowhere to go. Some of our users come five days a week, it’s a lifeline for people.”

The Queen’s Award For Voluntary Service, overseen by the Cabinet Office, is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK.

Open Door, run by seven staff and about seven unpaid support workers, provides activities, outings and a daily cooked meal for dozens of members.

Mr Bush said: “I think the staff and volunteers are quite outstanding in their commitment they have shown over 26 years now.

“It is an outstanding contribution to the lives of over 100 people who have learning difficulties but they are now outside the school system. So they play an immensely important social role. It gives them confidence, it gives them something to do every day.”