She may be in her seventies, but Dorothy McGregor has a workload that puts lesser mortals to shame. As a volunteer at the Maundy Grange drop-in centre, her working day begins at 3am every morning and she doesn’t leave until 5.30pm.

As a founding member of the drop-in centre, Dorothy is the heart of Maundy where she clocks up over 100 hours a week and rarely finds the time to go home.

And, it is this incredible drive and dedication that saw her awarded the Freedom of the Borough in 2001.

The centre started out from humble beginnings 12 years ago and now the operation has 34 volunteers and helps 200 disadvantaged and vulnerable people regularly every day – providing food and small grants as well as a safe house for emotional and spiritual advice.

But before she was commissioned as a nun to run the Maundy project, Dorothy was already devoting herself to working in and helping the community as she spent many years as a psychiatric nurse and social worker before entering the probation service.

Yet, she also lists running her own sweet shop and taking a modelling course on her CV.

The charitable venture started out on Maundy Thursday in 1998, when Dorothy, Alan Freeman and the Reverend Len Singleton began running a 24-hour food parcel service from their own homes and out on the streets.

Dorothy, who lives on Abbey Street, recalled: "Occasionally we got an office or met in a cafe but there was no headquarters.

"We kept food in our various bedrooms and we shared a car. It was set up to help people who were falling through the system."

"Now I am here at 3 o’clock in the morning every day until 5.30pm, then I take the phone calls overnight."

"The volunteers are loyal and committed and go far beyond the call of duty. They’re brilliant and I couldn’t function without them."

Prior to setting up Maundy Relief, Dorothy worked for 25 years in probation, where she encountered many of the acute social problems, such as alcohol and drug abuse.

And it was her knowledge of these issues that fired her determination to carry out the work she does with Maundy.

Dorothy, who was born in Blackburn in 1933, admits that she was ‘paralysed by shyness’ when she was younger and even endured a mental breakdown as a result of her inner turmoil.

Despite this however, she achieved a BA Hons in Latin, French and Economic History at Manchester University – a rare feat for a woman of her generation.

"I was in and out of institutions for a long time but it never stopped me from being able to use my brains or function," she said.

"Everybody has tough times in life when things are hard. Now that I’m older I’m glad the earlier days were hard because it makes it easier now.

"I feel sorry for those born with a silver spoon in their mouth," she added.

The 77-year-old first moved to Accrington as a teenager but moved in and out of the area through her nursing commitments until she finally settled just across the road from Maundy Grange in 1973.

She was awarded the Freedom of the Borough at a civic carol service at St James church, Accrington, on December 17 in 2001 and said: "I am eternally grateful to the people of Hyndburn and east Lancashire. I’m personally indebted to them all and the immense courage of all of our guests.

"I am always in awe of people living chaotic, random and at times terrible lives who manage to survive," she said.

* The Accrington Observer has teamed up with Hyndburn council to ask our readers for nominations for the new round of honourary freeman awards.

The awards will culminate with a special council meeting to confer the freedom to one of the people nominated by our readers before the end of the year.

The Freedom of the Borough is the highest tribute that a borough can bestow upon an outstanding citizen.

At least one nominee submitted by our readers will be awarded the Freedom, to be decided by our judging panel.

To receive a nomination form call the council’s Area Management Team on 01254 380121 or email your address.