SHE’S been described as a human dynamo, with a heart the size of a house. Now Rachel Holliday, who was the driver behind an ambitious scheme to create accommodation for ex-servicemen in Egremont, has been voted the Cumbria Woman of the Year 2015.

Judges felt Rachel’s passion, enthusiasm and overwhelming determination to make a difference, made her a worthy winner of the honour.

The announcement was made at a Cumbria Women of the Year awards event held yesterday at the Belsfield Hotel, Bowness-on-Windermere.

Awards chairwoman, Tess Hart said it was a privilege to present the award to Rachel “a strong and inspirational young woman with extraordinary determination”.

She established Calderwood House hostel despite opposition to her plans. Her citation said she was someone who had “triumphed over adversity, turned her life around with education, drive and a steely determination, as well as the love of her family, to win over hearts and minds to truly positive effect. We suspect there will be much more inspiring change to come.”

Mother of two, Rachel, 35, whose husband is a police officer at Sellafield, worked for the Cumbria Action for Social Support for seven years, helping to provide supported accommodation for homeless ex-offenders and there gained experience of homelessness prevention. It also led to her setting up a homeless football team which has won two awards from the High Sheriff of Cumbria.

Rachel’s drive to help came from her own experience of being homeless during her teenage years.

She established community interest company, Time to Change (West Cumbria) Project in June 2013 (based at Cleator Moor) and focused on those who had served in the armed forces returning to civvy street, finding themselves homeless and having difficulty reintegrating into society.

She learned all she could about working with homeless people, funding sources, legislation, the benefits system and project management to enable her to establish Calderwood House in the former police station building at Egremont.

In September, Calderwood House opened as a social enterprise where residents take ownership and responsibility for their lives.