COUNSELLING charity The Magdalene Project, based in Bacup, is celebrating being awarded one of the highest honours in the land ahead of the opening of a new centre next month.

The project has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which recognises 20 years of commitment and dedication to helping local people.  It is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The charity's co-founder Irene Alderson and project director Pauline Ellison attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in May, along with other award winners, where they met and chatted with Prince Charles.

The Christian counselling service is based in Irwell Terrace, with a new building due to open in Nelson in July.  The project was set up in recognition of present day needs in society and gives a professional and confidential service to all in need of help.  It deals with a wide range of issues, specialising in abuse and trauma.

It is funded mainly by donations and grants, and has recently won a Children in Need bid which runs for three years.

Ms Ellison said: “We are over the moon and honoured to have been recognised with this award. It is thanks to the dedication of all the counsellors and staff over the last 20 years and all our supporters, without which none of this would have been possible.

Ms Alderson said: “The Garden Party was a fabulous event to attend. We managed to get to speak to Prince Charles who was very interested in our work and told me ‘we need more people like you.’ What an endorsement!”

The charity had a party to celebrate their good news with supporters and staff past and present who will all be receiving a special commemorative pin badge.

The charity will also receive a crystal award and a signed Certificate from Her Majesty the Queen with the citation, ‘For providing specialized therapy for all people, ages, ethnicity and faiths dealing with trauma crossing all boundaries’ which will be presented locally by the Lord Lieutenant for Lancashire later this summer.

The Queen’s Award recognises outstanding work by volunteer groups.

It was created in 2002, to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.