‘A fine example’

Sharon Baxter(left), Bethany Birks and Michael Dickinson.
Sharon Baxter(left), Bethany Birks and Michael Dickinson.

A Peterlee teenager has received a prestigious award for her enthusiasm in brightening up journeys for the elderly and disabled.

Bethany Birks, 15,has been honoured with a Shrievalty award from the High Sheriff of County Durham, the Honorary Harry Vane.

The Dene Community School of Technology student, who was unable to attend a grand awards ceremony at Durham Castle due to sitting a GCSE exam, has been volunteering with East Durham Communicare, which provides transport for the elderly and disabled, since she was just 12 years old.

She is the fourth generation of her family to have helped the service, which was set up in 1975, sees 2,500 passengers a month and is based on the North West Industrial Estate in Peterlee.

Bethany started out by cleaning the inside of vehicles and now helps with office work, taking inquiries and also designs promotional posters and the majority of Communicare’s three-monthly newsletter.

She also helps out on journeys, strapping people in and sitting at the back of the bus to make the driver aware of any problems.

Her grandmother, Sharon Baxter, from Blackhall, who is a volunteer and treasurer on the committee, nominated Bethany for the award, alongside Jason Turnough, of East Durham Area Action Partnership. Mr Turnough said Bethany’s work has helped reduce isolation and “brought pleasure and companionship to many”.

Sharon, whose parents Bob and Alice Baker, and daughter Kelly (Bethany’s mum) were volunteers with the service, said: “The drivers love having her here and a lot of service users say she’s a joy to have. She is always friendly, happy and enthusiastic.

“Her family are very proud of her. It’s just a pity that more young people aren’t as enthusiastic and dedicated as Bethany.”

The High Sheriff described Bethany, and the 26 other award winners as “a fine example to us all”.