A TRIBUTE TO
EDDIE BENSON MBE
1935 – 2017
The Trustees, Staff, Volunteers and users at Oaken Grove Community Centre are deeply saddened at the death of Eddie, the founding Chairman of our organisation.
Eddie worked tirelessly for the Haxby and Wigginton community for well over 50 years, providing leadership and vision that has benefited both young and old.
He had been involved in youth work since 1952, much of that time in a voluntary capacity. He was a football referee for junior teams for 10 years and a member of Haxby Parish Council representing young people’s interests for 18 years, plus a school governor. He led the initiative to move the youth group from St Mary’s Church Hall to a purpose built youth centre in 1974 attached to what was then Usher Lane Primary School.
In 1998, in Haxby and Wigginton, youth vandalism with its related alcohol and drug issues was becoming a major problem. Eddie organized both public and private meetings out of which was formed the Haxby and Wigginton Youth and Community Association (HWYCA) and lead this organisation as Chairman until his retirement from its Board of Trustees in 2009 at the age of 74, although he still remained an active and enthusiastic volunteer. Through his efforts the Association achieved charitable status, obtained a grant from the National Lottery, and was able to develop a team of youth workers, working in partnership with the City of York Youth Service.
In 2002 the Youth Centre was threatened with demolition as the school was due to close, but undaunted Eddie saw this as an opportunity, and with his enthusiastic leadership, the Association negotiated with City of York Council to convert part of the primary schoolto a new Youth and Community Centre – now the Oaken Grove Community Centre. In 2005 this building was opened by HRH the Duke of York, and from then on this enabled him to expand its work to provide leisure and social facilities for all age groups, especially for older people as the communities of Haxby and Wigginton have matured.
Right up to his death following a short illness, Eddie continued to be very much involved in the day to day running of the Centre, particularly with the activities of the weekly “Pop Inn” for mature local residents, and was in fact the life and soul of this group activity. Things were always fun when Eddie was around. At the same time he continued to play a lively interest in the work of the youth club, as his concern for the opportunities for young people had always been his overriding aim.
His aim was always to make Haxby and Wigginton a community orientated place. He constantly came up with new ideas, and his enthusiasm and energy have benefited thousands of people in this community over so many years.
In 2004, for his work in the community, Eddie was awarded an MBE. He also won first place in the York Community Pride “Person of the Year” Awards, and been honoured by the Rotary Club of York with a Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of his work in his local community. In 2014 he became one of the first residents to be awarded the “Freedom of Haxby” by Haxby Town Council.
As our Chairman, Martin Crosby has said“Eddie will be much missed by everyone involved with the Association, an organisation which only exists because of his dedication and talent. On a personal level he was kind, good humoured and worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met. His work has made a huge difference to so many lives here and so whilst he will be missed, he will not be forgotten.”