A woman known to many as ‘Mrs Harleston’ for her long-time involvement in countless community initiatives has earned the prestigious title of MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.
Carol Wiles, 66, of Station Road, was named MBE, which stands for Member of the Order of the British Empire, at the beginning of this month, in honour of around 35 years of service to Harleston.
During this time, she has served dozens of roles, including town councillor, school governor, community fundraiser, and for the past two years, she has worked as a committee member for civic organisation Harleston’s Future, supporting the group in organising numerous events and projects.
Mrs Wiles, who has four children and 11 grandchildren, praised the community, explaining she could not have achieved what she had without their help.
“It’s absolutely fantastic. You don’t ever think you are going to get something like this,” she told the Diss Express.
“I have always been involved. I have always loved this town. It’s like a town of very good friends.
“I couldn’t have done any of it on my own. We all work so well together.”
Among the many roles she has held are founder of the Harleston Holiday Scheme and The Grapevine community newspaper, trustee to the Exchange2 youth venue, secretary at the local scouts group, fundraiser for the Pink Ladies’ Tractor Run and manager of the Harleston Town Football Club Under-13s team.
She also helped with the revival of Harleston Carnival and the annual Pancake Races, successfully campaigned for improved traffic safety around local schools, and had a vital impact on the town’s ‘Have Your Say’ public consultation events, the benefits of which are still being enjoyed today.
Now an important part of the Harleston’s Future events team, Mrs Wiles described her colleagues as “absolutely fantastic”, and stated they called themselves “the A-Team” because they all contributed their individual strengths.
“We have a wonderful team at Harleston’s Future. This is as much for them as it is for me,” she said.
“People keep saying this award is not for Harleston, it’s for me.
“But I say you can’t really separate the two.”
Reflecting on her years of activities, Mrs Wiles picked out a fundraiser in which she abseiled from the top of the Harleston clock tower in Market Place as one of her standout memories.
“It took me about three weeks to get over that. I’m terrified of heights, but we had to do it,” she explained.
“I was very proud of the football club too. I am still in touch with some of them (the players).
She added: “Everything that I do which helps this town, I’m proud of.”
Ian Carstairs, a colleague who has worked closely with Mrs Wiles for the past ten years, told the Diss Express he and everybody at Harleston’s Future was “thrilled” to see all of her hard work recognised in this way.
“Carol is an enormous asset to many facets of town life,” Mr Carstairs said.
“She has had a wide range of involvement in many aspects of life in Harleston.
“She is an absolutely key player in the whole Harleston’s Future project.
“She brings with her a warm and smiling character, which is a great encouragement to others.
“She has never expected anything in return.”