New Year Honours: Leicestershire's heroes are named today
A pensioner who helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Caribbean Carnival is to be given an MBE.
Jan Gaskell is among 17 unsung heroes from the city and county named on the Queen's New Year Honours list today.
Mrs Gaskell was inspired to become involved in the city's Caribbean festival after seeing a carnival in Antigua in 1984, while her husband was working for the island's police force.
"It just wowed us," said the former school bursar from Birstall.
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"It was such an expression of joy and freedom and music and colour – we were captured by it there and then, as we watched it first hand.
"It is such a wonderful day, but more than that it leaves such a wonderful legacy for everyone involved."
Since joining the Leicester Caribbean Carnival team in 1989, Mrs Gaskell has held the roles of treasurer, director, book-keeper and, finally, fund-raiser, responsible for finding about £200,000 a year to run the event.
While she no longer heads up the fund-raising, she still helps run the colourful procession and organise dancers and musicians.
"It brings together not just the Afro-Caribbean community, but all communities and religions – it is wonderful," she said.
Mrs Gaskell's honour will also acknowledge 35 years of dedication to the Charnwood branch of Cancer Research, during which time the group has raised more than £200,000.
"I think everyone has been affected by cancer – a friend, family or a colleague," she said.
"You feel helpless, and do not know what to do except say you are very sorry."
The lifelong fund-raiser worked as an assessor for Children in Need for 15 years before retirement.
She also joined Victim Support as a trustee in 2003 after the charity began sharing a city office with the carnival team, and is now area chair.
"It is a way of life," she said. "You work for the community you live in. You are blessed with what is given to you, and it is all my way of giving back to the community."
Anne Lewis has been awarded an MBE for her 38 years of service to the Scouts.
The 71-year-old, from Thrussington, has helped about 800 children through the 1st Rearsby Scouts, and now trains adult volunteers and leads the organisation's Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme.
She began volunteering when her children joined the Scouts in the 1970s and still joins camping trips and excursions.
"To see young people start at Beavers at six, and go through scouting and get top awards, and then come back as leaders themselves – it's just wonderful," said Mrs Lewis.
"I think it does keep me young at heart."
A mission to single-handedly improve her neighbourhood has earned May Jones an MBE.
The 67-year-old, from Leicester's Saffron Lane estate, started the Neston Action Group in 1997.
With help from the police, she led a successful campaign to evict three families who were causing problems in the area.
The group soon disbanded, but Mrs Jones continued to fight to improve her community.
"I thought if I make this place nicer for me to live in, it will be nicer for everyone else, too," she said.
Since she began her mission to improve the Neston Garden area, security doors have been installed in dozens of flats, grassland has been spruced up, homes have been made safer, and hundreds of needles have been removed from park areas.
The grandmother has organised festive events attended by more than 1,000 people and is currently campaigning for a new children's play area.
Youth club volunteer Rob Barker, 55, is to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM).
His father started the Great Oxendon youth club, near Market Harborough, in the 1960s and Rob took over in 1975.
But when he got married, high house prices forced him to move away, and the club shut in 1980.
Five years later, Rob moved back and reopened the club, which meets every Tuesday.
"It's a little bit embarrassing to be honoured like this in a way, because I just really enjoy doing what I do," said Rob, a garage director.
"I get a lot of pleasure from seeing the kids have fun, and I like the way you get what you see with kids."
Rob, who is also a parish councillor, youth rugby coach, and chair of the village hall committee, drives the children home after each session.
Riaz Ravat is also picking up a BEM for services to interfaith understanding in the city.
The 35-year-old from Evington, Leicester, is deputy director of faith-based charity the St Philip's Centre.
In the past 10 years, he has helped 10,000 people become involved with the Evington-based centre, which works to improve faith relations.
"I could not have got this without the help of my family and the dedication of the faith community – I am indebted to them."
William Connell, of Market Harborough, performance director at the British Equestrian Federation, will receive an MBE for services to the sport and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Double-amputee and Paralympian Richard Whitehead, who trains at Loughborough University, will also receive an MBE. He powered his way to a gold medal and a new world record in the F42 200m at this summer's Games.
Nilima Menski, founder of the centre for Indian Classical Dance, in Highfields, Leicester, will get an MBE for her services to dance.
Many years of charitable work has earned Colin Clarke, from Lutterworth, an MBE.
Ivy Ellis will also get one for her dedication to the WRVS at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
BEMs will also go to Sylvia Jones for her charity work in Oakham, Rutland, and Penelope Weston-Webb, in recognition of her services to the community in Cossington.
For their services to education, Dipak Kumar Fakey will get an OBE and Carolyn Robson, head teacher at Rushey Mead School, will get an CBE.
Former diversity manager at Leicester College, Ruth Pickersgill, is to pick up an MBE for services to further education.
In recognition of his contribution to manufacturing, Earl Shilton ballet shoe maker Mark Suffolk is to receive an MBE.
For services to bioscience, Roger Thrift, underwriting adviser at Life Science Insurance Company, will get an MBE.