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Why I missed my big day out to meet the Queen - so I could thank colleagues closer to home

PUBLISHED: 18:18 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:18 25 March 2019

Halford Hewitt MBE and his team at IHAG with Clare, Countess of Euston, Lord Lieutenant for Suffolk Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Halford Hewitt MBE and his team at IHAG with Clare, Countess of Euston, Lord Lieutenant for Suffolk Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Most people who get a gong from the Queen like to have their big day out at Buckingham Palace.

Halford Hewitt has been made an MBE Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHalford Hewitt has been made an MBE Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

But the chief executive of an Ipswich charity who has spent many hours helping the town’s homeless chose to abandon all the pomp and procedure - in favour of a more down to earth ceremony closer to home.

Halford Hewitt was made an MBE by Her Majesty for his 27 years of outstanding service at the Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG).

People made an MBE, OBE or CBE are then invited for an investiture performed by The Queen or another leading royal at Buckingham Palace,

But Mr Hewitt’s ceremony was performed at IHAG’s offices in Black Horse Lane by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Clare Countess of Euston - the Queen’s representative in the county - with Mr Hewitt saying: “I wanted to receive it here because it really is about us, about IHAG.”

Halford Hewitt shows off his MBE in Ipswich after declining to collect the honour at Buckingham Palace  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNHalford Hewitt shows off his MBE in Ipswich after declining to collect the honour at Buckingham Palace Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He added: “This award might make it look like I did all the work myself, but it’s here that the work is done.

“I’m so proud of everyone because what we do here is something that’s special - everyone says it, but it’s true.”

The charity started in 1976, with no permanent staff, two buildings and just four beds for the homeless population to access.

Now, 43 years later, the team has grown to more than 40 full and part-time staff, 14 properties and 55 beds - helping approximately 2,000 people every year.

Mr Hewitt has run the Ipswich Homeless Action Group since 1993, and received hi MBE in recognition of his commitment to the homeless population of the town. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMr Hewitt has run the Ipswich Homeless Action Group since 1993, and received hi MBE in recognition of his commitment to the homeless population of the town. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Chapman Centre, which IHAG runs in Carr Street, offers amenities like showers, hot food and laundry services to those looking for support. People can also talk to staff for personal support and guidance on finding permanent accommodation.

Mr Hewitt added: “It’s a very tough world for charities like this now. What’s so brilliant about IHAG is that we think about what the clients needs and we work to deliver that.

“We have some very simple messages about honesty, integrity, openness, truthfulness and respect.

“We try and ignore the vagaries of government and the local fashions for tackling a problem and focus on the client - it takes a lot of integrity to do that and I hope my team protect that because it’s rare.”

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