Thetford community stalwarts recognised in honours list

Melanie Furness, who has been recognised in an honours list, pictured with a bunch of her running aw

Melanie Furness, who has been recognised in an honours list, pictured with a bunch of her running awards and medals. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

A nurse and a school worker from Thetford are among those recognised in the honours list for work in the community.

Melanie Furness and Sharon Thompson have been given a British Empire Medal (BEM) for their services to the local community.

Mrs Furness, 51, a nurse specialist for Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, said she was "shocked" after receiving a letter about the award for her services to fundraising and to the community.

Melanie Furness, who has been recognised in an honours list, pictured with her husband Richard Furne

Melanie Furness, who has been recognised in an honours list, pictured with her husband Richard Furness. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

"I had to read it several times to fully take it in", she said.

The founder of Thetford Parkrun revealed the news to her 93-year-old parents on Christmas Day, which made her mother cry.

She said: "It was tears of joy and excitement as well.

"I was a foster child initially and taken into care and there's this stigma about people being in care and the struggles they have, that's why my mum cried because of the hard work they've put into raising me. I wasn't an easy job."

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On being included on the list, she added: "You look at it and think, I'm just a normal person doing things that thousands of people do every year and every day.

"I still can't comprehend it, I think until I actually get the award it won't actually sink in.

Nurse and marathon runner, Melanie Sturman, has raised nearly £7,000 throughout the pandemic after o

Melanie Furness has taken part in 314 marathons and has raised around £50,000 over the last few years for charities and causes - Credit: Melanie Sturman

"When we all do our voluntary work and fundraising, we do it because we have a passion and I feel very humbled and proud that someone has taken the time to nominate and get the evidence required.

"I hope it inspires other people as well."

The nurse, who has also taken part in 314 marathons, has raised around £50,000 over the last few years for charities and causes including Headway, St Nicholas Hospice, Banham Zoo and the Royal British Legion.

The 51-year-old has also held virtual running events to help support mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic and has been packing and delivering Christmas hampers for those vulnerable in Thetford. 

She said: "I think particularly during the last two years of the pandemic putting on events has helped my own mental health and emotional wellbeing as well because it's given me a slightly different focus away from a very stressful job."

'I don't take credit easily'

Ms Thompson, who works at Bishop's Academy, was also given a BEM for her service to the community.

Roy Brame presents a special recognition award to Sharon Thompson

Sharon Thompson pictured earlier this year receiving a special recognition award from Roy Brame. - Credit: Keith Mindham Photography

The 59-year-old, who is part of Meet 'n' Eat and Epic group including FAST (First Aid Support Thetford), is involved in a range of community initiatives including providing free meals to those in need in the local area throughout the pandemic, and gifts to people in need for Christmas.

"I was surprised", she said, jokingly adding: "It was the case of who's done it, what have you done? 

"I don't take credit easily.

"We celebrate Christmas Day tomorrow as a family because we do an event for the homeless on Christmas, so my phone will be off for most of the day."

She thanked all those who supported the causes and her 15-strong team who do "everything and anything" from first aid to meals, and who have supplied around 57,500 meals since the beginning of Covid.

The 59-year-old added: "The generosity of local businesses and the public, and the way people have pulled together, is what has allowed us to do what we've done."

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