Self-help group founders are winners!

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TWo women who founded a self-help group for retired and semi-retired people have been declared joint winners of the Wetherby Townsperson of the Year award.

Lesley Newnham and Mary Bentham, who established the Wetherby and District U3A (University of the Third Age) in spring last year, received a record number of nominations for the accolade.

They were presented with their silver salver prizes by the Mayor of Wetherby, Coun Cindy Bentley, at the Wetherby Lions Pram Race earlier this month where Lions president Stuart Arnold announced them as winners.

“I was absolutely thrilled to learn I had won,” said Mrs Newnham. “It was a lovely surprise.”

Mrs Bentham was equally happy to receive the award.

“We were really delighted. I feel very humbled that lots of people wrote in our support. It’s really nice people felt we deserved it,” she said.

Both Mrs Newnham and Mrs Bentham were wanting to keep active in their retirements but were disappointed to find the nearest U3A branch was in Harrogate.

Each had individually thought about setting up a U3A in Wetherby but the catalyst came when the pair accidentally bumped into each other in the town’s Save the Children charity shop in late-2009.

After making plans over the winter months, the organisation’s first meeting in March 2010 attracted 75 people and now the Wetherby U3A boasts more than 400 members with more than 40 active groups.

“There is an amazing mixture of friendship and passing on knowledge and skills to each other,” said Mrs Bentham, a former museum curator.

“I am very grateful to the people in Wetherby Methodist Church because we have been able to use it for our meetings and get-togethers.”

• Anyone interested in joining Wetherby and District U3A is welcome to attend its next meeting at Wetherby Methodist Church, on Bank Street, on Thursday, August 25, at 2.30pm.