The former General Manager of The Grove, our Bournemouth hotel which provided holidays and respite for people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses, has received an award from Her Majesty the Queen. Brenden Howard was recognised for great and valuable services to the community by George Streatfeild, the High Sheriff and official representative of the monarch in Dorset.
“The first I knew about the award was when I received a call from the Town Hall,” said Brenden.
“I was pretty taken aback. But once it sunk in I felt really honoured and thankful to the wonderful guests and people who nominated me.”
He continued: “Apparently I would normally have been invited along to receive the award at the Town Hall. But as that isn’t possible at the moment they asked if the High Sheriff of Dorset could come and present it to me at my home.
“It was pretty unusual hosting him on my doorstep, but he was a lovely chap.
“My three daughters couldn’t believe that I’d had a visit from the Queen’s representative while they were at school.
“They are all really chuffed for me.”
Brenden was General Manager of the Grove Hotel on the East Cliff for over a decade. The Grove was owned and operated by Macmillan Caring Locally based at Christchurch Hospital. Brenden and his staff provided much-needed short breaks and holidays for terminally-ill people and their loved ones.
“Some people who came to us were so full of anxiety because of their conditions they had to actually be persuaded they needed a break,” said Brenden. “But by the end of the holiday they often didn’t want to go home.
“It was completely different to any other hotel – unique – and we would try and fulfil any request from our guests; whatever they wanted to do, wherever they wanted to go and even special things they wanted to eat – nothing was too much trouble.
“For me as the manager, just meeting them and seeing them experiencing pleasure and creating memories, made it the best job ever.”
As well as running The Grove, Brenden was and remains a staunch supporter of Macmillan Caring Locally. “At one point I was persuaded to abseil down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth for the charity,” he said. “It was terrifying. But my guests signed me up and I couldn’t back out.”
Financial pressures arising from the pandemic left the charity with no choice but to close The Grove in September, 2020. Since then, Brenden has channelled his energies into starting a new business www.bikecareplus.co.uk which helps cyclists.
He said: “Lockdown has meant many people have gone back to cycling and I clean and service bikes and carry out minor repairs.
“I miss The Grove, the staff and guests. But I will always be there for Macmillan Caring Locally if they need me.”
The High Sheriff of Dorset George Streatfeild, said: “Meeting Brenden was amazing. He clearly cared a great deal for his guests at the hotel and it was a bitter blow to him when it closed.
“I would say he is quite an exceptional person to be so caring and dedicated to helping those suffering and less fortunate than himself.
“He just wants to use his skills and experience to help people and he continues to do that with his new bike venture. It was a real pleasure meeting him.”
Neal Williams, Trust Secretary of Macmillan Caring Locally, said: “We are all so pleased and proud for Brenden. “He is such a modest man who has made a real difference to the lives of so many people over the years. He richly deserves this award.”