A VOLUNTEER who uses her experiences to help other people has been crowned Bury's Woman Of The Year 2011.

Frances Halligan, of Branch Close, Bury, picked up the title in a ceremony held at the Bolholt Country Park Hotel, in Walshaw Road, this afternoon.

She also received the award for the volunteer category of the contest.

Mrs Halligan started her career as a teacher and took early retirement when she faced mental health problems.

She is now involved with several voluntary activities to show her gratitude for her own recovery.

She volunteers at the Creative Living Centre in Prestwich, provides support to people with alcohol problems, works with families at Early Break in Bury and shares her story with mental health patients and prisoners.

Mrs Halligan is also a committee member for Bury Involvement Group (BIG) In Mental Health and has been elected to the board of Bury Link.

Nominating her for the award, Edwina Rosenberg said: "Frances is dedicated and passionate about helping the people of Bury and will express her concerns on their behalf to those in authority and the appropriate decision makers."

Emma Birkett, of Swanage Close, Brandlesholme, was named as the winner of the business category.

The mum-of-three set up charity Boomerang in 2008 after struggling to find somewhere safe for her disabled daughter to play.

She secured funding worth £225,000, including grants from four councils, and earlier this year she opened a play centre for disabled children, in Woodhill Street, Bury.

Winner of the carer category was Lesley Swinnerton, of Crosby Road, Radcliffe, who runs Starmount Villa care home in Bradley Fold with her husband, Ray.

She supports residents, often working seven days a week and being on-call through the night, as well as helping to care for the elderly relatives of her friends and leading pilates classes.

Mrs Swinnerton battled breast cancer in 2001 and offered advice to other patients while she was recovering from treatment.