New Year gongs for Moray homelessness campaigner and Shetland housing stalwart

New Year gongs for Moray homelessness campaigner and Shetland housing stalwart

Mary Nelson

A former deputy director of housing for Shetland Islands Council and a former chairwoman of Moray Fresh Start have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

William Henderson has become a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for voluntary service in the Shetland Islands, while Mary Nelson received the same award for her services to homeless people in Moray.

Mr Henderson, 85, helped provide hundreds of families with comfortable homes during his time as deputy director of housing for Shetland Islands Council and Hjaltland Housing Association, where he worked with for 19 years before retiring.

He has been raising awareness, funding and help for activities for the people of Shetland for 50 years.

Mr Henderson said: “I am very surprised and very honoured. I have been working with local charities for almost five decades.

“Charities play a vital role in everyday life, no more than in today’s climate.

“I have always played a role in housing, from the early days of being a surveyor to becoming depute director of housing and housing manager for Shetland Islands Council.”

Originally from Croydon, former nurse Mary Nelson has been donating immense amounts of her time assisting previously homeless people to take their first steps into substantive accommodation as part of the Moray Fresh Start charity.

Within five years of first volunteering, Mrs Nelson became chairwoman and was immediately tasked with resolving a perilous financial position the charity found itself in.

The service operates Moray-wide and works through agencies like Moray Council, housing associations, the Prison Service and Moray Women’ s Aid.

In 2013, Moray Fresh Start was awarded the Queen’s Award for voluntary service.

Mrs Nelson said: “The charity has been working extremely hard this year. Initially, in the first lockdown, the figures were quite low, but then it rocketed after that.

“I was extremely surprised by the BEM and had no idea.

“This is really for all our brilliant volunteers, past and present. That is what is important.

“The people of Moray have been fantastic in supporting us.”

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