January 12th 2016

Ilkeston volunteer receives MBE

An Ilkeston man who has volunteered for much of his life has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Colonel Mike Cheetham, aged 77, has received an MBE for his services to the community in Derbyshire.

As someone who enjoys being busy and who is always seeking out new volunteering opportunities, Mike said: “There is a great deal to be gained by giving your time to others in a voluntary capacity. Individuals can benefit greatly from seeing what their efforts can achieve, and I have been very lucky to have experienced this many times during the years I volunteered with the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and more recently here at the military charity SSAFA.”

On finding out he had been awarded an MBE, Mike commented: “I was really surprised to be both nominated for the award and to have received the honour. I initially found out about the MBE when a letter arrived in the post last year, although I had to keep the information a secret until the official announcement was made in 2016.”

Sitting in the SSAFA office in Belper, where he works part-time as the Derbyshire Branch Secretary organising fundraising projects for military personnel past and present as well as their families and dependants, Mike explained he was humbled to be one of a small number of people to receive an honour in Derbyshire this year. He continued: “I feel numb really. I can’t believe that someone has taken the time to put me forward to receive the honour, I am delighted. I have worked with a lot of people over many years to make my projects a success, so I would like to extend my thanks to everyone I have had the opportunity to work alongside.”

Mike joined Derbyshire ACF 32 years ago, after a short time volunteering with a local scout group. Starting as a Detachment Commander in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, Mike built up his unit recruiting new cadets and adult volunteers over the 11 years he volunteered in that location.  As time passed Mike progressed through the ranks, and became Commandant of Derbyshire ACF.

Mike explained: “The ACF provides a disciplined environment for young people to learn new skills and an environment for them to be proud of what they have achieved. There are lots of opportunities for both cadets and adult volunteers in the ACF, from having the chance to travel, to learning new skills like shooting or skiing. I personally never missed a summer camp in my 32 year volunteer career and always enjoyed meeting new people.

“One of my highlights from my time in the ACF is having the chance to organise cadet skiing trips over a period of 18 years. I had the chance to see our cadets go from learning basic skiing skills to being confident enough to ski down a number of steep inclines. We took about 700 young people to Scotland over the years I was involved, I will always remember this.”

Mike has always had an interest in fundraising to help people in need, so when an opportunity to work for the military charity SSAFA came up, he grabbed this with both hands knowing he could make a difference in his local community.

“I am always looking for new ways to raise the profile of SSAFA in Derbyshire, and as a consequence of this our team of volunteers raised £248,000 last year for worthwhile causes in the county. As a charity we provide lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force. We’re ready to help, whenever and wherever individuals need us”, Mike commented.

In his personal life, Mike spends time researching military history and has a library of over 7,000 books at his home.

Mike has not yet been given the details about when he will be travelling to London to be officially presented with his MBE at Buckingham Palace, but he is looking forward to the experience.

“I was really surprised to be both nominated for the award and to have received the honour."