HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a Keighley "pillar of the community" who dedicated his life to helping those in need.

Ghulam Rabani has died, aged 77, after being hospitalised with coronavirus.

He worked in Bradford's textile industry for many years before his voluntary role at the Sangat Centre in Keighley, which opened in 1991, became a full-time job.

"He has always been a pillar of the community," said a centre spokesman.

"He was a driving force in supporting the needy and vulnerable to be empowered to integrate into society.

"Over the years the work and projects Mr Rabani led at the Sangat Centre speak for themselves. He started social day care and this blossomed into a multi-faceted organisation serving people from all backgrounds and needs. We are a hub for adult education, youth activities and advice. This continuous development and progress has been overseen by Mr Rabani over a period of three decades.

"Mr Rabani dedicated his life to ensuring its success. The community will attest that he worked evenings, weekends, holidays voluntarily to ensure their needs were met. No client was ever turned away.

"He was a truly humble, positive and genuine person. He was the heartbeat of the Sangat Centre. No words can describe the loss we are feeling but he has left the centre as his legacy. We feel honoured and privileged to have known and worked with him."

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Keighley councillor Doreen Lee, said news of his death was "extremely sad".

She said: "He will be missed by lots and lots of people that he's helped over the years.

"We worked together on lots of things. It's just extremely sad. I offer my condolences to his family and the wider community because the wider community has lost a great leader."

Javed Bashir first met Mr Rabani when he helped set-up the Sangat Centre as a community engagement officer at Keighley Town Council.

The community leader said: "He was very nice, very down to earth, very humble. He never seemed angry, he was always smiling.

"A lot of people used to rely on him for advice."

He added: "People need to take Covid seriously and not believe in these conspiracies on social media. Nobody's safe from Covid. You need to get involved in the vaccination programme, take precautions like social distancing and save your life and other people's."