Three charity volunteers have been recognised for their decades of fund-raising for the British Heart Foundation

Jean Chandler, Helen Hunter and Anne Strong with the Duchess of York.

Jean Chandler, Helen Hunter and Anne Strong with the Duchess of York. - Credit: Archant

Three incredible pensioners who have tirelessly raised funds for the British Heart Foundation for decades have been honoured with a special award from The Duchess of York and the charity.

Superwomen Jean Chandler, Helen Hunter and Anne Strong who make up The St Ives and District fundraising branch won the Outstanding Contribution Award at the recent British Foundation Heart Heroes Awards in London.

And the ladies got an extra thrill when The Duchess of York presented them with their gong at the star-studded event, hosted by television presenter Vernon Kay.

Formed by Jean, an ex-mayor of the town in 1983, the branch has raised more than half a million pounds through their quiz nights, pamper evenings and the annual St Ives Christmas Candle Lighting - starting on Saturday November 16 - which has become a highlight in the town's calendar.

Now in their seventies and eighties, Jean, Helen and Anne show no signs of slowing down and are on a constant mission to forge relationships with local businesses who support their events.

As if that's not enough, they do a great buffet- with homemade ginger cake a highlight - a fact that delighted the flame-haired Duchess.

Anne explains: "There was an introduction before our award mentioning that I also make a nice homemade ginger cake the Duchess told everyone she'd love to try it …because she was ginger! She also said we all looked fantastic which was wonderful."

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Helen added: "We never expected to win, it was an honour just to be nominated and we just expected to go to the awards and have a lovely evening. Meeting the other nominees was great, the food was lovely…and the drink was even better. We don't do what we do for recognition, but it is wonderful to know that our efforts are appreciated with this award."

Jean said: "It was a huge surprise to win but we were all so thrilled. Just overwhelmed really. We were having a wonderful evening but to win was just the icing on the cake. And to have the Duchess present it was a bonus, she was so lovely. She said she'd like to come to come to St Ives and visit us so I hope she will - she's invited any time. We're determined to carry on fundraising for the BHF while we still have breath in our bodies, we love it."

And the trio have been hard at work organising their annual Christmas Candle Lighting event in the chapel at St Ives Bridge. The event - where people come and light a candle for loved ones at Christmas and give a donation to the BHF - has been going for 30 years and raised more than £30,000 for the charity. The money goes towards vital research to help those living with heart and circulatory disease.

Helen says: "It has become a traditional part of Christmas in St.Ives. People light a candle and give a donation to the BHF. Many people return year after year, even some who have left the area returning to light a candle for a loved one. The bridge chapel is decked with Christmas decorations there are carols playing. The setting is unique. And it's one of the most enjoyable fund raising events that we do".

The candle lighting starts November 16/17, from 10am till 4pm and runs for the three following weekends.