TRIBUTE has been paid to a charity stalwart who has retired after 15 years of volunteering at Airedale Hospital.

Mike Yates, who chaired the Friends of Airedale, is returning to his native Devon.

He began as co-ordinator in the hospital outpatients' shop, before becoming acting voluntary services manager.

Mr Yates was subsequently appointed treasurer of Airedale New Venture, a charitable organisation which operated alongside the Friends at the Steeton site.

He was instrumental in bringing the two groups together.

"What I will remember most about my time at Airedale is just being with all the volunteers and the social side that goes with that," said Mr Yates.

"I have always said to the volunteers that it's a two-way thing. Not only are you helping other people, but you are helping yourself. Some volunteers may have lost their partner, or might live away from their families and be on their own, and suddenly they come into a group of people that they can make friends with and do so much good for the hospital.

"During my 15 years, we gave over £1.5 million to the trust. It's been amazing and it has always been appreciated by the staff, departments and the wards that we've helped."

The hospital's voluntary services manager, Gurmit Jauhal, said Mr Yates would be missed by volunteers and staff.

He added: "Mike has always had the passion, vision and leadership for developing the charity and the hospital shops.

"It is very fitting that he won the Volunteer Pride of Airedale award this year, jointly with Friends president Eileen Proud.

"We wish him all the best for the future."

The third annual Pride of Airedale awards were handed out in March, across 13 categories, recognising the efforts and achievements of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust staff.

Michael Luger, chairman of the trust's board of directors, said: "Mike is an exemplar role model, giving up his time to volunteer his services to the work of the hospital.

"During his time here he served the trust with honour and dignity, and will be part of the Airedale family forever."