A "totally unexpected" honour is testament to Norfolk volunteers who work to improve people's lives, says a charity boss recognised in the King's Birthday Honours.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation is made an MBE for her services to business development and charity.

Ms Cullens has been at the helm of the independent charity, which supports and works with local charities and voluntary groups, since 2018.

She said: "When something like this happens it is totally unexpected. When I opened the envelope, I had to read it a few times before it sank in.

"Nobody ever works in isolation and I lead a team of incredible people. Norfolk has got an amazing voluntary sector.

"Even when things can feel really bleak, we have got people who stand up and do something to help other people."

The Norfolk Community Foundation, based at Whitefriars in Norwich, played a crucial role during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 Community Response Fund was created to support community groups helping Norfolk people during the crisis.

Claire Cullens (left) has been made an MBEClaire Cullens (left) has been made an MBE (Image: Brittany Woodman)

Ms Cullens said: "The foundation has really accelerated our offer to communities and I think we really saw the impact of that during Covid.

"We played a key role in bringing partners together to support people during that time."

The foundation has also offered support during the cost of living crisis.

Since 2020, the foundation has set up a network of food hubs through the Nourishing Norfolk initiative.

Those hubs offer a place, for people struggling with the costs of living, where they can shop on a budget and access support. It is helping some 30,000 people.

The foundation has also administered the Household Support Fund, using government money secured by Norfolk County Council for a number of programmes.

That includes a food voucher scheme for families with children who are eligible for free school meals, a Client Hardship Service and grants for organisations which offer help.

Ms Cullen said: "We have got people who are ready to step up and help, that gives you real energy and drive."