The founder of Jennyruth Workshops, Barrie Evason, has been awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to people with learning disabilities in Yorkshire.
Barrie set up the charity and social enterprise with his wife Sue to help adults with learning disabilities gain work and life skills by making and selling handcrafted products.
The not-for-profit project started in their garden shed, when Barrie and Sue wanted to help their son and adopted children with Down’s Syndrome to work and be productive.
Realising that meaningful work opportunities for young adults with learning disabilities were extremely limited at the time, they expanded the project to welcome others with their warm, family-centred approach.
Barrie is proud of the difference that the team at Jennyruth Workshops has made to the lives of the people they have helped over the years, since their premises in Bridge Hewick opened in 2004.
Barrie said: “So many people came forward to help make Jennyruth happen when it started, yes it happened to be my idea and I did start the original smaller business, but this MBE is not for me, it is about all of us, and what we have achieved together.
“The skills that people gain here are ones that they can carry over into other parts of their lives.
“The whole ethos of Jennyruth Workshops is that everybody who comes to us are people first, adults with learning disabilities second.
“People who come here don’t want sympathy, they want empathy. If they feel that, then they are more likely to be open and respond to you.
“Being part of something that functions as a business gives people a dignity, knowing that they have done something themselves and as part of a team. It is a happy place, we don’t manufacture that.”
Sue said: “They pick up that we care, and feel that we want the best for them. The staff help people to develop the talents they have. The change we have seen in people is just tremendous.
“We’ve known people who didn’t communicate with us very much at first, but their relatives now say that they have never seen them so motivated.
“Jennyruth Workshops is a place of hope, a place that you can call home.”
Barrie received his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, on December 6.
Barrie said: “Everybody is thrilled that we have been recognised at Jennyruth Workshops, it is a real team effort and this MBE is for all involved.
“It felt surreal, I am just an ordinary, working class lad from Lancashire who stood in front of Prince William being given an award.”