A party was held in Hangleton yesterday evening (Friday 11 September) to congratulate a community stalwart who was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Pat Weller, 75, of Godwin Road, Hove, was honoured for her work as chair of the Hangleton and Knoll Project. She has held many other unpaid posts in the area over the past 40 years.
The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Peter Field – the Queen’s representative in the county – was among those who paid tribute to modest Mrs Weller.
He said that the MBE was the highest honour for a community volunteer and he added that Pat Weller was a worthy recipient.
Hove MP Peter Kyle said that he had only recently met Mrs Weller but had already come to appreciate what a force for good she was.
Parish priest Father Keith Perkinton paid tribute to her grassroots work, her sense of vocation and how it came from the heart.
While people knew the Pat who got things done, he said, she was unassuming and a good listener. He added: “She knows the community.”
Hangleton and Knoll ward councillor Dawn Barnett said: “MBEs are awarded to those special people who have made an outstanding contribution to their local communities over a number of years – what the Prime Minister would call ‘community champions’.
“In my view there is nobody more fitting of this description in our area than Pat.
“Right at the outset when I got involved in local politics here in Hangleton and Knoll it was made very clear to me – if you wanted to get something done, if you wanted to know something important, if there was a crisis that required managing, contact Pat Weller.
“It is no exaggeration to say that without Pat the community of Knoll would not be the great place that it is today.
“I would still be standing here this time tomorrow if I were to list all Pat’s contributions to the community and I’m sure that is the last thing you all want.
“But I will mention just a few of the key projects she has been in instrumental in.
“Pat was one of the founders of the Knoll Advice Centre and was one of the first people to be trained up to provide advice.
“She also helped set up the Community Buildings Network alongside Angela Sandrino, a founder member of the Trust for Developing Communities.
“Another organisation Pat helped set up – the very first Community Action Group – this time with Roy Taylor. And it is widely regarded as the best of its kind in Brighton and Hove.
“Pat originally said that she would act as manager of St Richard’s Community Centre on ‘a temporary basis until we get someone’.”
Twenty years later, she was still doing a fantastic job, Councillor Barnett said. She added: “Another longstanding role is her volunteering for the Hangleton and Knoll Project – something that she has done since 1985 – and, as we know, she deservedly became chair of that organisation in 2010.
— Jo Martindale (@JoMartindale) September 11, 2015
“Within that time she has ensured the continued running of the Hangleton and Knoll Festival, the Knoll Play Group and the Knoll Play Scheme.
“And – something which is very close to my heart – she has been instrumental in enabling the Knoll Lunch Club, the 50+ Tai Chi and the Forget-Me-Nots to go from strength to strength for the benefit of the older residents of Hangleton and Knoll.
“But above all Pat is a local activist. There is nothing that she likes more than helping out local residents, whether that be through problem-solving, reporting issues to the council or standing up for their best interests at local council meetings.
“In fact there is rarely a meeting which I attend that Pat isn’t at. She always goes that extra mile for the Knoll and certainly goes above and beyond the call of duty.
“I would like to finish by thanking Pat on behalf of myself, Tony Janio and Nick Lewry for all the help and support she has given us over many years.
“Many congratulations on your MBE, Pat. I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving of it.”
Hangleton and Knoll Project chief executive Jo Martindale said how proud the organisation – and the community – was of Pat Weller.
She said: “What an enormous achievement. She has never sought the limelight but we wanted to thank her.”
Among those who toasted her was Barry Hulyer who helped found the Hangleton and Knoll Project.
Mrs Weller said, with typical modesty, that the MBE recognised the work of the project and the community as a whole.
But her family and friends looked very proud of her as they toasted her and the fact that she has been recognised by the Queen.