An unimposing little shop in a West Cumbrian town has just been nominated for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the business equivalent of an MBE.

That is because the shop in question is the Aspatria Charity Shop, a small shop with huge ideas that has resulted in its giving £300,000 to groups and organisations throughout Aspatria and district over its 23 years in the town.

It has done that while keeping prices so low that anyone can afford to shop there.

The Aspatria and District Community Charity Association was formed in 1996 when then town councillor Duncan Stevenson heard an item on the radio about a venture in a small town in Scotland.

Mr Stevenson, who is practice manager for Maryport Dental Care Services, said: "The item was about a charity shop that had been opened there not just to support a single charity but for the good of the town.

"I took the idea to a council meeting. Everyone was enthusiastic and the shop began."

There are many charity shops in West Cumbria but this one is unusual because it does not work for one charity.

It works for many organisations and charities throughout Aspatria and district and has never once in its 23 years had to appeal for volunteers or donations of stock.

Now the shop is to be considered for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Any nomination must meet strict criteria.

A nomination is submitted in September to establish eligibility. During the autumn it is assessed locally and if thought to have a chance of an award is submitted to the national judging panel.

During her opening address at a reception in Bowness-on-Windermere, the Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Claire Hensman emphasised the importance of being nominated and congratulated nominated charities for their success so far.

Mrs Hensman also expressed her desire to encourage other Cumbrian charities to consider submitting applications for the award.

“The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is not widely known about, and I would heartily encourage anyone who works for a charitable organisation in Cumbria or admires their work and thinks they deserve a nomination, to submit an application. The application form can by be downloaded from the QAVS web site by entering ‘QAVS application’ into a web browser. Help and information about the application process and how to complete it is also available on the web site.”

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of The Queen's coronation.

Any volunteer led group doing work that provides a social, economic or environmental service to the local community can be nominated for the award. Each group is assessed on the benefit it brings to the local community and its standing within that community.