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Top Rotary award honour for community champion

Posted onPosted on 4th Mar

Mansfield Rotary has honoured one of the area’s most well-known community champions for her tireless work helping others.

Maria Bough received the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow — the highest recognition Rotary can bestow on an individual — from outgoing president Rotn Kelvin Bowman.

She has devoted more than 30 years of her time to improving the lives of people in Mansfield, particularly the Ladybrook area of the town.

Spearheading numerous campaigns and community projects, Maria was one of a founder member of Ladybrook Action Group, YALE (Youth Action for Ladybrook), Ladybrook Play Project, and the Shattered Dreams pregnancy loss support group.

She is also a founder member of Mansfield Soup Kitchen, supporting the homeless, and a founding director of Untapped Resource CIC — working with the long-term unemployed to help them back into the workplace.

Maria currently works with the Gears of Goodwill, which is an Ashfield/ Derbyshire-based homeless group, although her two main driving passions today are Hetty’s and Gift of Christmas.

The inspiration for her work with Hetty’s is driven by the tragic and sudden loss of her daughter, Charlotte, who was a key worker for the charity until her unexpected death in July 2022.

On receiving the award, Maria said: “I’m lost for words and in complete shock. My life didn’t start easily, but I guess that became a driving force in my mission to help others.

I never sought recognition for any of the work I have done, I simply wanted to make a difference and to leave a mark. I am truly humbled by this honour.

“If I had to live my life again, I would do it all again in an instant. It has been a journey and half, but it has been worth it.

“Folk talk about their legacy and what they want at the end of life’s journey. Me? I don’t want a stranger standing talking about me. I want everyone at my funeral to say one good thing about my life and the impact it has had on theirs. Then I will know my life has not been in vain.”

Hetty’s, now based at Burnaby House, Mansfield Woodhouse, was founded in 1999 by a group of mothers and supports families affected by a loved one’s alcohol or drug abuse. The Gift of Christmas is a not-for-profit group of people from all walks of life who collect goods and toys to distribute during the festive season for those less fortunate.

Rotn Bowman described Maria as a true community hero.

“Very few people in Mansfield have received the honour that we have bestowed on Maria,” he added.

“She thoroughly deserves it. Well done Maria and thank you for all the hard work you have done to help the people of Mansfield.”