Northern Ireland woman Mary Taggart honoured for community work
A Northern Ireland woman who devoted years to helping vulnerable people has been recognised with a national honour.
Former teacher Mary Taggart (66), from Portadown, has been presented with a British Citizen Award for her services to the community.
The awards recognise everyday people whose achievements may be overlooked.
Mary was one of 30 medallists who were honoured at a prestigious ceremony at the Palace of Westminster in London.
She said: "I was humbled and honoured to find out about the award and also very surprised. Everyone I support is so appreciative of the time I give them.
"To be honest, it's a privilege to be able to walk alongside those who are upset, grieving or frightened and offer support.
"Just being there can sometimes bring hope when all seems hopeless."
For the past 19 years Mary has been a volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care, helping those affected by the loss of a loved one and offering face-to-face support.
She currently specialises in supporting grieving children and young people.
Mary also volunteers in the Get Together - Bereaved Families Discovering' Project. This is a partnership between Cruse Bereavement Care and Corrymeela Community, supported by the Big Lottery Fund.
Mary has also recently trained to become a prison support volunteer and has been a Samaritan volunteer for 15 years. She voluntarily teaches English as an additional language two days a week to migrant workers and newcomers from different countries, and helps the NSPCC on their young witness service.
The mother-of-six is a eucharistic minister in her parish and brings communion to those in nursing homes.
Also for many years, Mary, with the help of her former pupils and staff, organised the distribution of Christmas hampers to needy families in her area.
She has also fundraised on an annual basis for good causes, such as sending aid to Romanian orphanages.
Mary was the local co-ordinator for Project Children - a voluntary organisation that helped change the lives of many children in Northern Ireland from both sides of the sectarian divide by taking them out of conflict areas and sending them on a six-week holiday to America.
Mary added: "No one knows when they will need the help of an organisation such as the Samaritans or Cruse, so my volunteering is just my way of giving something back and time is something that I can give."