On 23rd February 2022, the clients, volunteers and staff of South Oxhey charity, ASCEND, were delighted to receive a visit from HRH The Duchess of Gloucester. ASCEND serves the local community by providing employment support, health and wellbeing activities and a wide range of community learning opportunities.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss CBE CStJ, introduced the Duchess to local civic dignitaries and the ASCEND team. The Duchess was given a tour of ASCEND’s community hub, known as ‘Step Up’, by Brian Thomson, Chairman of the Trustees.
Brian said, “2021 was ASCEND’s 25th anniversary but sadly we were unable to celebrate. Today’s visit from The Duchess of Gloucester is a marvellous opportunity for us all to reconnect and for the work of the team to be recognised.”
The Duchess chatted to clients and volunteers about their experiences during the pandemic and heard how ASCEND’s support had been vital for them. HRH also met front line staff who, despite the logistical challenges of lockdown, worked tirelessly to continue to deliver key services. This included a food bank supported by local volunteers.
As Patron of the Embroiderers’ Guild, The Duchess was particularly interested in the three hand stitched wall hangings, proudly displayed in the Step Up building. Two of the stunning pieces, ‘Covid Blanket’ and ‘Emerging’, were completed during and towards the end of lockdown. They reflect the fear, isolation and then the tentative hope felt by many who participated in the project. Her Royal Highness also heard how the reassurance of meeting regularly via Zoom during lockdown, was a lifeline to over 40 participants.
At the end of the visit, The Duchess was presented with an embroidered keepsake of her visit by ASCEND client, Alison Bacon. Alison said, “I was so excited to meet The Duchess of Gloucester. It was an honour to be chosen to present the gift to her on behalf of ASCEND.”
Following the visit from The Duchess, ASCEND clients, volunteers and staff were joined by local civic dignitaries for a small reception. The civic guests were David Cansdale DL, Cllr. Keith Martin – Chair of Three Rivers District Council, Joanne Wagstaffe – Chief Executive of Three Rivers District Council and Gagan Mohindra MP – Member of Parliament for South-West Hertfordshire. The Lord-Lieutenant was accompanied by Army Cadet Staff Sergeant – Danishta Loganaden.