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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been awarded the prestigious Queen's Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012.
The charity, which has it's headquarters in Poole and relies on volunteers to carry out its lifesaving work, is one of just 60 organisations to receive this one-off award. The category was added to the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in order to mark the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic year.
In a nomination submitted by long-term RNLI supporters, actor Timothy Spall and his wife Shane, the charity's volunteers were described as "what is great about Britain." The Spalls went on to say: "They are an inspiration, and have our eternal gratitude and respect."
Volunteers have been at the heart of the RNLI since its inception in 1824; its 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members are on call 24/7, launching whatever the weather and often in the hours of darkness to help those in danger around the UK and the Republic of Ireland. In addition, volunteer lifeguards work alongside paid lifeguards to help keep beach-users safe and educate those who visit the coast. Specially-trained Flood Rescue Teams are also ready to deploy to any instances of inland flooding. None of this would be possible without thousands more dedicated volunteers who give their time to raise funds and awareness, give safety advice and help out in museums, shops and offices across the country
Paul Boissier, RNLI Chief Executive, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to receive this prestigious award, and for our selfless volunteers to be recognised for their commitment and dedication in this Diamond Jubilee year.
"Our volunteers come from all walks of life and are united by one common goal; an unfaltering commitment to help save lives at sea. From the volunteer crews and lifeguards who are at the forefront of rescues to the people who give up their time to raise vital funds. I am not only proud to be part of the charity but inspired by so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things."
Martyn Lewis CBE, Chairman, Queen's Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award Committee, said:
"The sixty organisations honoured today with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award for Volunteering have built their success on the dedication and generosity of thousands of extraordinary people, each of whom has devoted their time and energy to the simple aim of making their communities - and their country - a better place."
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said: "The list of recipients of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award for Volunteering reads like a Who's Who of British volunteering and is testament to the enduring strength and immeasurable contribution of volunteers over the past sixty years.
"2012 brought volunteering firmly, and deservedly, into the spotlight. The stories behind these awards show what people can achieve when they come together and I hope they will inspire more people to come forward to contribute, and to gain from, all that volunteering offers."
RNLI lifeboat crew member Gavin Steeden and volunteer lifeguard Chris Lewis will be representing the charity at a small presentation being held by the Cabinet Office at Whitehall on the evening of Wedbesday December 12.
Gavin said: "I have grown up with the RNLI and volunteer alongside my dad, brother and friends - it is part of who I am and what I love. It is a great honour to be recognised for what we do, and I am really proud to be representing not only my own station in Swanage but all the volunteers who are part of the charity."