THE co-founders of a Barnsley charity who have been supporting youngsters across the borough for more than 20 years have both been recognised with an MBE.

Jackie and Martin Sawson founded the charity, The Exodus Project, in 2000 with the aim of reaching the children and young people of Barnsley, to build long-term relationships and guide them away from destructive lifestyle choices.

They both picked up an MBE in the King’s birthday honours list - the first of their kind after he took to the throne officially earlier this year.

Martin told the Chronicle: “Our unique approach has been working for over 20 years.

“We don’t just get the kids off the street and out of trouble for a couple of hours a week - that’s the easy part.

“We build long-term trusting relationships that mean when the young people get to their challenging teenage years, they are among trusted adults and alongside peers doing positive and affirming things, as opposed to hanging about outside the bus station or the corner shop.”

The charity has a total of 16 activity clubs in situ all across the town, as well as their own centre where children and young people come for weekend camps in South Hiendley.

“It’s a home from home,” Jackie said.

“Our centre, known locally as Jenny’s Field, is where the real relationship building takes place.

“They stay overnight with us and enjoy loads of fun activities like bike treks, boating, sports, crafts, wide games and so much more.”

The pair say they were ‘delighted’ to have been recognised in this way - and Martin thanked the public for their support in helping out.

He added: “So many people have contributed to our success over the years.

“The people and businesses of Barnsley have sponsored our work so generously over the years.

“Our charity shops in the town centre and Cudworth have been so well supported by the shoppers of Barnsley but also through donations of goods for sale.

“People often say they want to give their unwanted saleable items to us because we’re helping people locally.”

Jackie and Martin were nominated for the award by their patron Ron Carbutt OBE.

He was supported in the application by volunteers, trustees and local partners who recognised Jackie and Martin’s dedication over the last 23 years.

Jackie added: “We have been overwhelmed by the response from our family and friends to the award.

“It’s the kind of thing that happens to other people not us.

“I can’t believe the number of people who have encouraged us and said how deserving we are.

“It doesn’t feel like we’ve done anything that special but if it helps us get support for Exodus for another 20 years, that is fantastic.

“Of course, it will be a great day when we get to visit Buckingham Palace and receive our medals too.”