A Collier Row woman who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year's Honour list has described her invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party as a “once in a lifetime experience”.

Claire Saunders, who was previously a Co-op store manager but is now based in its Funeralcare team, was recognised with her BEM for campaigning to increase workplace protections for shop workers.

Pushing for tougher sentences on shop staff abusers, Claire told this paper at the time that news of her medal came as a “complete shock”.

Four royal garden parties are held each year - three at Buckingham Palace and one in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Claire attended one of the London events on May 18, describing it as “the most overwhelming feeling”.

While the Queen was not there, Claire said other royals were in attendance, including Duchess of Cambridge Kate, and there were things to see, such as the Queen’s Guards.

It was not the royals who made the event for Claire, however, but others who had also been recognised for their efforts.

“I think the nicest part of the day was speaking to other people who are there,” she said.

“There were a lot of war veterans, people from the police. It was really nice.”


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