Times are hard but walk tall and be proud

PUBLISHED: 18:15 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:26 25 August 2010

VIP GUEST: Gravesham Mayor Ken Jones.

VIP GUEST: Gravesham Mayor Ken Jones.

COMMUNITY workers, land girls, businesses and councils have all been praised for their selfless work by the Queen s representative in the county.

COMMUNITY workers, land girls, businesses and councils have all been praised for their selfless work by the Queen's representative in the county.

At a service led by the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, Allan Willett, hundreds of representatives from various sectors were thanked for their hard work.

He also acknowledged how hard newspapers are working to stay afloat during the recession and said Times editor Melody Foreman is doing a "brilliant" job.

At the service, at Rochester Cathedral last Thursday, the Lord-Lieutenant said: "I think all would agree that it has been an extraordinary year nationally and globally. We live in a rapidly changing world, a world of upheaval. Change is so enormous, so rapid, so bewildering that people feel insecure, like helpless bystanders."

Turning his focus to the media, he added: "I would especially like to thank those here today from Kent's media groups who are facing extraordinarily difficult operating conditions in the face of a combination of internet-based changes and falling advertising revenues resulting from the current difficult economic situations."

Speaking afterwards, he added: "I think Melody is doing a brilliant job."

Now in its fifth year, the annual service saw more than 700 civic leaders, volunteers, magistrates and representatives from the emergency services, media and education sectors gather in the cathedral.

This year's service celebrated the mosaic of communities that make up the county.

Mr Willett told the multi-faith congregation that, regardless of religion or political beliefs, they all shared dedicated service to the community and pride in Kent.

He finished on a reassuring note, saying: "Let's encourage the people of Kent in this difficult time to think positive, walk tall, be proud. Yes, life will be hard in 2009 and 2010 and maybe beyond, but, as Her Majesty urged in her Christmas message, we will be courageous. We must encourage the people of our county in their quest for an ever better future."

Also present were former members of the Women's Land Army and Timber Corps - most now in their 80s and 90s - who worked the land during the Second World War.

In his speech, Mr Willett said: "Sixty-four years on, we are still proud of our Land Girls and Lumber Jills."

At the reception afterwards, at Rochester Corn Exchange, he chatted with Land Girls Barbara Cooper, 83, from All Saints Road in Northfleet, and Eileen Spice, also 83, of Meadowside in Dartford.

Mrs Cooper said: "I feel very lucky that I was selected to come. It's nice to be recognised after such a long time. Nobody ever mentioned the Land Army before. It's quite emotional really."

Mrs Cooper, who worked on a horse farm in Southfleet, added: "So many women from the Land Army have died now, so it's a shame they weren't here today to see this."

And Mrs Spice, who did general farming in Maidstone during the war, added: "I was really thrilled to get the invitation - I couldn't believe it.

"It's wonderful to get some recognition now, although it's a shame that it's too late for some people."

Another of those present, Major Simon Dean, is founder of Challenger Troop, a not-for-profit organisation that takes troubled children out of school and gives them military training, often resulting in their return to school with a healthier outlook.

Major Dean, who works with pupils in schools in Hextable and Swanley, said: "We help young people who are vulnerable, who have a desire to improve themselves and we do all sorts of military training with them.

"Today is really about recognition for us and the work we do. It's an important day for community services - because it can often be a thankless task."

The Lord-Lieutenant was widely praised for including all sectors in his speech. Jeremy Kite, leader of Dartford council, said: "We get along with the Lord-Lieutenant very well in Dartford because he speaks all the right language. It's about supporting people who don't get recognised normally. It's about supporting the notion of civic pride - because that's gone out the window a little bit recently.

"I applaud him for his speech today and for holding an event like this. He holds voluntary workers in the same esteem as council workers and politicians, and that's absolutely right. Because without them, frankly, our society would break down."

The Mayor of Gravesham, Ken Jones, seconded Mr Kite's sentiments: "I found the service very impressive and representative of all communities in Kent. It has really pulled everybody together and brought a bit of cheer, which is badly needed at the moment.

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