A GOOD cause in Clacks has last week officially received the highest award for voluntary groups in the UK.

Said to be the MBE for charities, the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) was officially handed over to Breathe Easy Clackmannanshire on Tuesday, June 8.

Members of the group, including chair Linda McLeod who had received the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2018, had to wait around a year to officially be presented with the award, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, the county's lung health support group was originally named as the winners of the award in early-June 2020.

Officially presenting the award last week was Clackmannanshire's Lord Lieutenant Lt Col (retd) Johnny Stewart.

Following the presentation at Gartmorn Dam, he said: "This is much more than just a group that meets once a month as other similar groups do.

"It is about transforming the way people think about lung conditions and influencing policy makers to invest in treatment and support.

"It is about engaging young people on the dangers of smoking, campaigning for better air quality and embracing technology to make difficult lives easier."

The Lord Lieutenant added: "What comes through all of this is that by being part of the group the members are not only supported but are also given a renewed purpose in life in that they are doing something positive to help others in a similar position and perhaps even more importantly helping future generations to avoid being afflicted in the same way."

The small gathering on the day took place near the coffee shop at Gartmorn Dam and also served as an occasion to unveil a memorial picnic bench in the beautiful surroundings.

The bench was made possible thanks to a grant made by Clackmannanshire and Stirling Environment Trust, with thanks being given by the group.

With the inscription "Rest Easy with Breathe Easy" it servers as a memorial to the "absent friends" of the lung support group.

It is hoped visitors to the dam will use the bench to relax, taking in the beautiful surroundings.

Breathe Easy chair Linda said: "It's going to be a lasting memorial to what we actually stand for, what we do."

She added: "It's not just a memorial for us, it's a memorial for all our past members as well that are 'absent friends' as we call them."

Linda was delighted the presentation could go ahead, but restrictions still meant the number of attendees was rather restricted.

She is hoping to organise a bigger celebration with members, when restrictions allow, and also belatedly mark the group's 10th anniversary, which was observed at home last March.

MSP Alexander Stewart also sought to congratulate the group, lodging a motion at Holyrood.

He commended trustees, members, volunteers and friends of Breathe Easy for all their "tireless work and dedication for the benefit of the lung health of the entire local community across Clackmannanshire".