St Neots “unsung hero” due to picnic with The Queen

A COMMUNITY champion who has devoted nearly a quarter of a century to helping others is being honoured at a picnic with the Queen.

Pru Gardiner, 72, has volunteered twice a week at the St Neots Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for 23 years.

She has been invited, along with her husband Jim and 18 other people from the town, to Burleigh House near Stamford, on June 13, to meet the Queen as part of her Jubilee celebrations.

The grandmother-of-four has also been heavily involved in amateur dramatics, is an author and a regular public speaker.

Born in Sheffield, Mrs Gardiner has been married to Jim for 52 years and moved to St Neots 30 years ago. She is passionate about the changing role of a CAB advisor, particularly in today’s difficult climate.

“When I gave up my business in my 40s I didn’t want to feel as if I was stagnating,” she said. “I wanted to make best use of my time once I retired and got involved with the CAB by chance when it was in St Neots library.

“The issues have changed so much over the 23 years – for example, there’s not the same level of debt there was back then. The issues of immigration and unemployment have also changed.”

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Mrs Gardiner, of Woodlands, St Neots, said she was concerned about the lack of funding being made available to, and ultimately the fate of, the CAB in St Neots.

She said: “The level of advice we can give has really lifted over the years, but it comes down to money, like everything else at the end of the day.”

One of her ambitions was to meet the Queen.

She said: “I met Princess Anne a few years ago because she’s patron of the CAB, but I’m so excited about meeting the Queen herself.”

St Neots Mayor Barry Chapman and his wife Lindsay have also been invited to attend.

Cllr Chapman said: “I met Pru 10 years ago when I began working as a volunteer at St Neots CAB.

“Her willingness to help others, energy and down to earth approach has always been inspirational to those around her.”

Mrs Gardiner said she has no intention of stepping down from her role at the CAB – something her colleagues will be pleased to hear.

Advice session supervisor Deborah Gilbanks said: “Pru is here come rain or shine and always gives everybody as much help as she can.”

Former St Neots mayor Bob Eaton said: “Pru works tirelessly for the community and is a stalwart of CAB. I congratulate her.”

However, for Mrs Gardiner, it is all in a day’s volunteering. She said: “I don’t really give it much thought – it’s just something I do, part of life.”