Prime Minister Theresa May has personally praised a Bottesford project which is tackling loneliness and given its creator a coveted award.
Lyndsey Young has been awarded a Points of Light honour - which recognises outstanding people who make a change in their community and inspire others - for The Friendly Bench, a kerbside community garden where socially isolated people can meet and chat.
Hundreds of people have already visited the resource, which has also become a focus for monthly activities and events, since it was opened last year.
In a personal letter to Lyndsey, Mrs May wrote: “With ‘The Friendly Bench’, you have created a unique space for the community, young and old, to come together to enjoy each other’s company.
“By bringing people together, you are tackling the loneliness felt by so many and forging friendships and bonds which make a community stronger.”
Lyndsey said she was ‘thrilled and honoured’ to receive the award.
She said: “Loneliness can affect everyone and anyone at some point in their life and unfortunately for some sustained loneliness and social isolation can have a profoundly negative effect on their health and wellbeing.
“By creating The Friendly Bench and with the support of our fabulous volunteers, we have created a vibrant social hub in the heart of our village where everyone feels valued, accepted and a part of their wider community.
“Our plans now are to extend a The Friendly Bench network across the UK and enable other communities to have a friendly, supportive hub on their own doorstep too.”
Rutland and Melton MP, Sir Alan Duncan, who officially opened the bench, described it as ‘a fantastic initiative’.
He commented: “I am absolutely delighted that the hard work of my constituent Lyndsey Young has been recognised with a Points of Light award.
“Loneliness can affect anyone, no matter their age or background, and we should be doing all we can to tackle it.
“Projects like Lyndsey’s can make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Lyndsey was inspired to create concept after facing loneliness herself while working as a freelancer after the birth of her son.
The Friendly Bench has become a focal point in the village for elderly people, those with limited mobility and others who suffer from social isolation.