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Duke of Kent inspired after visiting homeless lifeline in Ilford

PUBLISHED: 17:22 21 February 2017

The Duke of Kent on a visit to the Welcome Centre in Ilford with manager Sonia Lynch and managing director Phil Herbert

The Duke of Kent on a visit to the Welcome Centre in Ilford with manager Sonia Lynch and managing director Phil Herbert

Archant

A charity supporting homeless people across the borough received a royal visit in recognition of its work.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent dropped into the Welcome Centre, Ilford, this morning.

Prince Edward praised the hardworking staff, volunteers and clients at the “excellent” day centre.

The Mayor of Redbridge Cllr Gurdial Bhamra said he was delighted to show off the vital lifeline for rough sleepers.

He said: “It’s an honour to bring a royal guest here.

“The Welcome Centre is one of my charities so I’m very pleased to highlight the hard work that goes on.”

The Duke was also joined by Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal, chief executive Andy Donald and Thomas Chan, the deputy lieutenant of Redbridge.

He was treated to a tour of the facilities, in St Mary’s Road, by manager Sonia Lynch and managing director Phil Herbert, where he met many of the volunteers, including Carlene Grant.

Ms Grant, who lives in Ilford, is the charity’s longest serving volunteer.

She said: “I started volunteering when I retired from work 14 years ago, and I never left.

“Its hard work sometimes but you just have to give thanks.

“It’s very rewarding.”

The charity has been working closely with vulnerable people in Redbridge since 2000.

Many people have successfully turned their life around as a result of the day centre’s hard work, including Karan Cameron, 48.

She first came to the charity in 2008 and has made “amazing” progress, said support worker Jennifer Fletcher-Simms.

She said: “You wouldn’t recognise Karan now.

“She’s come such a long way and I’m so proud for her.

“We wanted her to meet the Duke today as she has worked so hard to transform her life.

“She’s absolutely brilliant.”

Mr Herbert, the charity’s managing director, said he was honoured to meet the Duke.

He said: “I have been looking forward to meeting him since we learnt that he was coming about two weeks ago.

“We are delighted to highlight the hard work that goes on here.”

The Duke also visited Redbridge College where he dined with students and staff at the award-winning Rouge restaurant.

He rounded off the trip with a tour of transport company Bombardier which won the contract to supply the trains for Crossrail.

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