Accrington-based training provider North Lancs Training Group (NLTG) have teamed up with Baxenden Forum and PROSPECTS to fund a bench in memory of local community hero Sheila McVan.

Sheila, who sadly passed away in December 2021 aged 70 following a battle with motor neurone disease, was a key figure in the Baxenden and wider communities, giving hours of her time to local projects.

These included being secretary of Baxenden Community Forum, a walk leader for the Hyndburn Stepping Out project, as well as being an extremely active member of PROSPECTS, Hyndburn Green Spaces Forum, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, National Vegetable Society and the Baxenden Allotments and Garden Society, where she was a committee member.

Sheila, who was born in Huncoat, was also heavily involved in other local projects including being the main fundraiser for the rose garden in Haworth Park and ensuring local footpaths were passible, in particular the Hollins Wood footpaths.

All that tireless voluntary work in the community came following a 30-year career in the Lancashire Constabulary, which she started in Morecambe before moving to Accrington after marrying her husband Frank. Sheila was posted to Great Harwood as an officer general, before community policing as a volunteer in the Baxenden area, which is where her love for community projects began.

Mr McVan commented:

“She absolutely loved it. Once she retired from the police and got involved with all the different projects, she loved every minute of it. She took on these projects and she was really keen to do them.”

The memorial bench, which was funded by NLTG, Baxenden Community Forum – a free, easy to use, website and forum for everything about Baxenden, and PROSPECTS – Hyndburn’s community owned environmental charity, is located in the Jubilee Woodland in Baxenden, close to Hollins Wood where Sheila did so much work.

Mr McVan said:

“I chose the location because of the open aspect in front of it and the views around it. Sheila also did a lot of fundraising for Jubilee Wood where it is based, including all the grant applications and raising the funds to do the footpaths and plant the trees.

“It means a lot to me, it’s in her memory and celebrates everything she was involved in.”

An extremely determined and hardworking individual, when Sheila did get time to relax, she turned to art and growing her favourite flowers, dahlias.

Her love of artwork, painting and drawing was so strong, that she hand painted Christmas cards and birthday cards for all her friends and family.

You can learn more about the Baxenden Community Forum on their Facebook page, as well as PROSPECTS on their website: https://prospectsfoundation.org.uk/

NLTG supports local people with Apprenticeships, Study Programmes, Traineeships, Commercial Courses and Courses for Job Seekers. You can learn more about these opportunities by visiting www.nltg.co.uk or by calling 01254 395 355.

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