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Yorkshire Cancer Research volunteer awarded MBE in the New Year’s Honours list

A Yorkshire Cancer Research volunteer has been awarded an MBE in recognition of seven decades of work in the community.

Barbara Cline, a member of the charity’s Leeds volunteer group for 40 years, said she felt ‘stunned’ and ‘humbled’ to receive the accolade.

The 85-year-old first began working in the community in 1951 when she joined the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board as an office junior and a volunteer. She left after getting married and then returned in 1979 to work at the social care charity full-time.

In 1996, Barbara was seconded to be administrator for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association, a charity based in Leeds which raises awareness of the personal experiences of those who lived through the Holocaust. She has continued in this role to the present day.

Barbara has volunteered regularly as a presenter on Radio JCom, and she was invited to London to be part of a project initiated by former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, which aims to empower women in the Jewish community.

Barbara said: “I was stunned and humbled when I got the letter informing me that I had been awarded an MBE. It was just wonderful and totally unexpected. I was speechless for a while, which is quite something for me. I was honoured that I had been picked when there are so many people who do so many good things. My family have always been involved in charitable work in the community. I suppose it’s in my DNA; I just carried it on.”

Barbara first began volunteering for Yorkshire Cancer Research in 1981 after attending functions organised by her local group. She quickly became a key member, serving as Chairperson on two occasions.

Barbara, who is currently Honorary Secretary, said: “I had friends on the committee, so I decided to join and help as well. Although I had a full-time job, I was one of those people who liked to be busy all the time. I made time for the cause.

“In the early years, we would collect donations in the community and organise coffee mornings to raise funds. Every year we would hold an AGM and present a big cheque to the charity, which was quite a novelty for me.”

Barbara’s most notable memories include helping to organise a ‘Jewish Women of the Year’ event, which became one of the group’s most successful fundraisers.

It was attended by well-known people such as actress Kay Mellor, show-business journalist Francine Cohen and the late Lady Amelie Jacobovits, wife of former Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jacobovits.

More recently, Barbara has enjoyed presenting at the group’s ‘Desert Island Discs’-style events, which have featured guests such as ITV presenter and journalist Christine Talbot.

During the pandemic, the group has raised nearly £10,000 through online events, donations from the community and the sale of masks and handmade dolls.

Barbara said: “I’m a people person and I enjoy the interaction. At the moment, there isn’t any. We’re all working from home and it’s hard. The group has tried to innovate over the years and move with the times so we can continue to raise funds, and even during the pandemic we’ve found ways to support the charity. But I’m looking forward to all this being over and things getting back to normal.

“I’ve tried to retire three times, but while my brain is still working and I’m still enjoying it I’ll keep going. I’ve remained a part of the group because Yorkshire Cancer Research is such an amazing cause, and because of the camaraderie. We’re all friends, we’ve grown up together and we’ve known each other for so long.”

The Leeds Volunteer Group was first formed in 1958 and has since raised nearly £1 million for Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The cause became very personal to Barbara when her daughter, Deidre, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, she was treated successfully, and 22 years have now passed since she received the all-clear.

Barbara said: “Words can’t describe how it feels when your child, however young or old, goes through cancer. I always believed the cause was worthy, but the experience with my daughter brought it home to me.

“It’s something that is now always in the back of our minds, but it’s wonderful that she’s here. I will always be grateful to the research that led to her successful treatment. The most important thing to get to the end of the road is research. We can’t get anywhere without it.”


Picture caption: Barbara Cline is pictured with ITV presenter and journalist Christine Talbot, who featured as a guest at the Leeds volunteer group’s Desert Island Discs event in 2017.