A selfless, dedicated Airdrie mum has been rewarded for more than two decades of helping others by receiving an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
Carol Russell, the chair of charity HOPE for Autism, has been honoured for her first-class services to “speech and language therapy education, autism awareness and charity work”.
The delighted 53-year-old told the Advertiser: “When I read the letter saying I was receiving an MBE I couldn’t take it in; I thought, ‘is this a wind-up?!’
“It absolutely blew my mind as never in a million years did I expect anything like this. It was a bit of a task keeping it a secret from everyone at first but I am extremely honoured and happy with the news.
“My family are absolutely thrilled as they know how much work I have put into helping people with autism.
“Since announcing my MBE on Facebook, I’ve been inundated with lovely messages; many from old work colleagues and others highlighting how HOPE helped them and their children.”
Carol helped form HOPE for Autism in her home town 16 years ago, with the charity beginning life as the North Lanarkshire branch of the National Autistic Society.
She was inspired to help support young people and their families cope with “all aspects” of the condition after her daughter Nicole was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of four.
In a typical example of the type of determination and hard work that saw Carol honoured by the Queen, she oversaw HOPE for Autism’s growth from the ground up to reach out to “as many people as possible” in her home town.
She said: “While we were a part of the National Autistic Society, I felt we weren’t helping enough families locally.
“The group then broke away and formed HOPE, which became an official charity in 2002.
“Getting involved with other families and seeing how children are able to do things their parents never thought possible is what keeps me going.”