A Middlesbrough Brownie group leader who has devoted more than half of her life to providing a safe haven for young girls to build friendships and enjoy being creative has been honoured with a Teesside hero award.
Mandy Leach, who has been a Brownie leader for 31 years after starting out as a helper, runs the 37th Middlesbrough Brownies at St John’s Church on Marton Road in the town centre.
The group of 15 girls aged up to 10 meet weekly to do everything from designing T-shirts to making homemade soup, and having days out under the supervision of Mandy, her husband Andy and volunteers.
Now the 57-year-old has received a Teesside hero award from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation after being recognised as an unsung community champion.
Lee Vaughan, head of port operations at Philanthropic Foundation patrons AV Dawson, paid Mandy a surprise visit at one of her group’s meetings, presenting her with a trophy, a restaurant voucher for Al Forno Middlesbrough and a cheque for £1,000 for a Teesside charity of her choice.
“I was shocked and felt so undeserving, because I’m sure there must be so many other people out there more deserving than me,” said modest Mandy, who works in the pharmacy at James Cook University Hospital.
“But it’s nice to feel appreciated and although it can be hard after being at work sometimes I just love being involved with the Brownies.
“It gives girls something to do, and you can see them enjoying themselves and growing in confidence, which makes it really rewarding.”
Mandy was nominated by assistant Brownie guider Michele Bowker, who was pleased to see her receive her award after putting so much work in over the years.
“37th Middlesbrough Brownies is in an area of high unemployment and many of our girls are from under privileged backgrounds,” said Michele.
“Both Mandy and her husband spend a considerable amount of their personal time and money planning a range of interesting activities for each session.
“Mandy is very good at fundraising to help ease the burden on parents and carers who may struggle to pay subscriptions and buy uniform.
“In fact she keeps several sets of uniform to hire out for a nominal fee so that the parents don’t have the expense of buying a new one, and the girls feel very special as they can dress like all the other Brownies.”
“Mandy and Andy ensure that these girls are all provided with a safe space to play and to be a valued member of the guiding association.”