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Honour for work in community

Posted on March 16 2010 at 10:54:29

Many recipients of the MBE would want to shout their news from the rooftops, but a Blackwell man named in the New Year Honours list was happy to keep quiet about his achievements – until his proud wife convinced him to enjoy a bit of attention from the local press, writes Sally Oldaker.

Michael Hopper was awarded the honour for “services to the community”, which includes a lifetime of voluntary work with disabled people as well as a 40-year career in the Department of Work & Pensions.

Since joining Job Centre Plus (or the Labour Exchange as it was then known) in 1970, Michael – who is originally from Stroud – has worked tirelessly to help people into the right jobs and to ensure disabled job seekers are not discriminated against.

“Like most people, I joined the Job Centre because I wanted to help people,” he says. “It was sometimes frustrating, but I can honestly say I enjoyed going to work every single day.” He was transferred to Birmingham 27 years ago, and the family – wife Sylvia and three children, the youngest of whom, James, has cerebral palsy – settled in Blackwell. 

Michael has always been heavily involved in the local community, first in Gloucestershire and later in the Midlands, particularly with helping disabled people learn to sail – his volunteer work and fundraising efforts were recognised by Prince Charles many years before the MBE was presented.

Michael suffered from polio as a child and now has limited mobility, but it hasn’t stopped him doing his bit; although he is officially retired, he gives up two mornings a week to help out in Avoncroft Museum’s human resources department.

He and the family are now looking forward to a trip to Buckingham Palace, with fingers crossed for decent weather – the last time Michael was invited to a garden party there, four people were struck by lightning!

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