A CHILDREN’S charity which has been providing activities for the town’s youngsters for more than 20 years has been given a top award by King Charles.

The Exodus Project and their volunteers – based in Barnsley town centre – received The King’s Award for Voluntary Service.

It is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The group provide activity clubs and weekends away for children and young people in Barnsley, providing a space for children to have fun and reach their potential.

It is one of 262 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.

Jack Dutton, assistant project manager, said: “I’m thrilled that the work we do every day has been recognised by His Majesty the King.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation and we cannot thank them enough for the work they do.

“They come each week without fail and are positive role models to the children and young people.

“Being caring, listening ears, the ‘older brothers and sisters’ for the children to have fun with in clubs, and supporting our work in many ways.”

The King’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and, following his accession, His Majesty the King emphasised his desire to continue the award.

Recipients are announced annually on November 14, the King’s birthday.

Representatives will receive the award crystal and certificate from Dame Hilary Chapman, Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, next summer.

In addition, two volunteers from Exodus will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May and June 2024, along with other recipients of this year’s award.

Jackie and Martin Sawson founded the charity in 2000 with the aim of reaching the children and young people of Barnsley, to build long-term relationships and guide them away from destructive lifestyle choices.

They both picked up an MBE in the King’s birthday honours list the first of their kind after he took to the throne officially earlier this year.

Martin said: “Our unique approach has been working for over 20 years.

“We don’t just get the kids off the street and out of trouble for a couple of hours a week, that’s the easy part.

“We build long-term trusting relationships that mean when the young people get to their challenging teenage years, they are among trusted adults and alongside peers doing positive and affirming things, as opposed to hanging about outside the bus station or the corner shop.

“So many people have contributed to our success over the years.

“The people and businesses of Barnsley have sponsored our work so generously over the years.”