Queen's Birthday Honours 2021: Charity founder recognised with British Empire Medal

Francis Charles at the Stratford Centre delivering food parcels

Frank Charles has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Newham during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Frank Charles

A charity founder has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frank Charles has been recognised for his work helping rough sleepers and needy families in Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2021.

Frank, from Wanstead, told the Recorder: "It's one of the greatest feelings. I feel proud and very humble. I would like to dedicate this award to all the people doing similar work."

The 57-year-old started charity work after the death of his son Ashley, who died in 1989 aged 23 months of Hirschsprung’s disease.

As a child, Frank also fought the birth defect, which affects the bowels, receiving treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mr Charles, on the right, delivers gifts to sick children at Newham University Hospital.

Frank, on the right, delivers gifts to sick children at Newham University Hospital. - Credit: Frank Charles

In 2015, he started the Frank Charles Give a Gift Appeal (FCGAGA). It has given presents to sick children in hospitals every Christmas since.

Frank was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cancer of the bone marrow in 2010. He was given four years to live.

Mr Charles holds the Olympic torch

Frank was a torch bearer at the London 2012 Olympic Games. - Credit: Jake Wiltshire

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Part of his bucket list was to see FCGAGA registered as a charity, which it now is. Thankfully, in 2019, doctors confirmed the cancers were gone.

"A lot of the stuff I do is in memory of my son. [His death] brings home to me that you can feel you have everything and all of a sudden, it all changes," Frank said.

ashley charles

Frank's son Ashley died at the age of 23 months in 1989. - Credit: Frank Charles

He recalled feeding his son, then noticing his eyes looking at the ceiling. After touching Ashley's cheek, he felt something wasn't right.

"It was just a very sad time. I promised when I got back on my feet to do good in honour of my son," he said.

Mr Charles delivers food to a home

Frank has delivered food to those in need throughout the pandemic. - Credit: Frank Charles

Through his charity's Feed the Streetz project, Frank kept up meal deliveries to those in need. He also volunteered at the Carpenters' and Dockland Centre in Stratford.

Supporting rough sleepers is close to Frank's heart as the former youth worker spent two years in a hostel from the age of 16.

"I came from a very poor family. We had nothing. People would buy us stuff, second hand clothes that kept us going. As a child I thought, this is something I would like to do," he said.

Mr Charles with Samantha White at Carpenters & Dockland Centre.

Frank with Samantha White at Carpenters' and Dockland Centre from where he still delivers food and essential items. - Credit: Frank Charles

A delighted Frank went on to thank everyone who has supported his work, including wife Paula, Samantha White at the Carpenters' and Dockland Centre, the accountancy firm Haslers, Asda and Grace which support FCGAGA.