A STOURBRIDGE community champion had the 'best day in years' when he picked up his British Empire Medal - awarded for his work helping the town's vulnerable and elderly.

Steve Sharples was awarded the BEM in the New Year's Honours list for his "services to the community" and he was presented with the medal at the Bath and West Country Festival on Saturday.

Mr Sharples, aged 80, who moved to Somerset a few years ago, said he had an "absolutely stunning" time and he was delighted to receive the Royal honour from the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Mrs Annie Maw, and High Sheriff Thomas Sheppard.

He told the News: "It was the best day I've had for years. It was overwhelming."

The prestigious BEM was awarded in recognition of Mr Sharples' work and commitment to the community in Amblecote where he lived for many years - having moved to Stourbridge from Preston, Lancashire, more than 30 years ago.

The former industrial engineer was heavily involved in the GP patient participation group at the Three Villages Medical Centre at Amblecote (and previously Wollaston), before moving to the south west.

He also ran a popular monthly tea party event in Wollaston to help bring together elderly and lonely people from across Stourbridge.

He also helped to organise a very successful annual flower show for local people with learning disabilities, stood for Dudley Council as a Labour candidate in Amblecote, and was the driving force behind a community campaign to get Dudley Council to take action to stop pollution being emitted from the old Caparo factory in Wollaston, which was located where the Doulton Brook housing estate now stands.

Mr Sharples was accompanied to the awards ceremony at Shepton Mallett Showground by his wife Barbara, and friends John and Linda Sabin, from Amblecote.