Mid Wales

April Jones: Robert Owen Award marks Machynlleth spirit

The Robert Owen Award
Image caption The Robert Owen Award has been presented to Machynlleth

The spirited response by a town to the disappearance of five-year-old April Jones has been recognised by the Co-operative Group.

Machynlleth has received the Robert Owen Award for outstanding contribution to co-operation for the way it reacted in the weeks after April went missing.

She was last seen near her home in the Powys town on 1 October.

Despite an ongoing search by police, specialist teams and hundreds of volunteers she is yet to be found.

Machynlleth's leisure centre and a nearby community hall, Y Plas, became the focus of the hunt for April in the days following her disappearance.

Hundreds of people from the town and other parts of Wales and England descended on the area to help search for the little girl.

Many others made sandwiches or donated food for those out looking for her.

The Co-operative Group has recognised the community spirit in its first ever Robert Owen Awards, one of five presented at Cardiff University on Friday.

Owen - who was born in Newtown, Powys, in 1771 - is seen as the founding father of the co-operative movement.

Machynlleth mayor Gareth Jones and mayoress Eirwen Edwards accepted a slate plaque on behalf on the town.

"It is a great privilege to accept this prestigious award on behalf of the people of Machynlleth," said Mr Jones.

"Machynlleth has been put under the world's spotlight and I am immensely proud to say that each and every resident of our town has set an example of community spirit, unity and solidarity which others aspire to emulate.

'Sleepless nights'

"This award is for every single person in Machynlleth without exception.

"For the hundreds of volunteers who searched tirelessly for days on end, for the people who contributed and made food for the emergency services, for the young children of our town whose lives became traumatised at the scenes unfolding before them, for the elderly and disabled people who suffered sleepless nights at the thought of how their home town was being devastated.

"For the members of the farming community who turned out in such great numbers to assist in the searches, for the teachers and teaching assistants whose care of our young people is exemplary, the list goes on and our efforts will continue unabated."

Mr Jones said the thoughts of the community remained with April and her family, and it continued to live in hope.

Image caption April Jones with her mother Coral before her disappearance

Last week an auction in aid of April's Fund raised more than £4,000 - boosted by donations from Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones and singer, Bonnie Tyler.

All the money raised went to the fund, which has reached the £50,000 mark.

A metre-tall pink star light was turned on in the town to remember April last week.

It is part of the festive street display in Machynlleth, but unlike the other Christmas lights which are turned off overnight, April's star will remain lit through the night.

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