AN ACCOUNTANT who has served the community for more than 40 years was presented with a special accolade at the Citizen of Southend Awards.

Noel Kelleway, from Leigh, made it his mission to make a difference in the community, after experiencing first hand what it means to need help and support.

Coming from a poor background, he lived in council housing with six other children. However, it wasn’t long before Noel began to climb the ladder and landed his lifelong dream career in accountancy.

He began volunteering in 1977 throughout Southend and Leigh, becoming an honorary auditor for a number of organisations, including the Leigh Operatic and Dramatic Society, where he remained for more than 30 years.

Noel has since been recognised for running 39 marathons to raise funds for South Essex charities such as St Lukes Hospice, his contribution in the launch of the Southend Half Marathon and HARP 24, his role as a Poppy collector throughout Leigh, and for writing the business plan which secured funding to launch Havens Hospices, 37 years ago.

It was his service to the community which landed him with the Sir Teddy Taylor Award, a special award put in place to honour a man who was Southend’s MP for 25 years and one of the founder members of the Citizen of Southend Awards.

The 67 year old, said: “I know how important it is for those who are less fortunate to have the help they need – I’ve been there myself. Where I now have a good career and family, I wanted to help those worse off than I am.

“I started by just volunteering a few hours a week and occasionally weekends, so I was able to balance my job and make a difference at the same time.

“Now look where we are.

“Since the launch of the Southend Half Marathon in 1996, which I’m proud to be a part of beside friends, £1.2million has been raised for Fair Havens Hospices.

“For many years I even dressed up as Santa in the Christmas parade along Southend High Street.”

Despite battling prostate cancer and the side effects of treatment, Noel continues to help out in his spare time.

He said: “I was diagnosed back in 2012 and found out last year that the cancer had came back. It was a hard time, especially knowing it’s likely to come back in the future.

“Currently I’m undergoing hormone therapy, but I realise it’s a progressive illness. It’s spread to my bones and lymph nodes.

“I focus on the positive and what the future will bring – luckily I have a fantastic support system around me, with three children and five grandchildren, friends, and colleagues. Thank you to you all.

“I’m unbelievably flattered to have received this award, I actually thought it was a joke when I found out. I donated the £500 which I received for my charity of choice to the Fair Havens Capital Appeal.

“I’ll be collecting poppies at Leigh station and knocking from door to door later this year. I’m not giving up.” The Citizen of Southend Awards also presents individuals with the Gold, Silver and Bronze award.

This year, the Gold Award went to Jacky Goddard, from Westcliff, for her six decade long commitment to girl-guiding.