Villagers in Old Buckenham have banded together to raise a whopping £32,500 for a homeless charity.
The money, which was raised in the space of just 12 months, will go to St Martin’s Housing Trust, a charity committed to helping the homeless build a better a life.
We are grateful to the volunteers who have devoted their time to collect for St Martin’s and to the public who supported this appealDr Jan Sheldon
Organiser Michael Bartlett said: “We have been doing it for about 20 years.
“We have a strong and supportive team who have helped raised the money.
“We get a lot of support from the supermarkets in Diss, certainly Morrisons and Tesco, even collecting on Christmas Eve. It’s a well-supported campaign.”
The majority of the money came from collections held outside supermarkets.
The total was boosted by a £1,000 donation from the Old Buckenham 2000 Trust, and £500 from a candlelit service at All Saints’ Church on Christmas Eve.
“The idea originally was to try to help and give a better Christmas to those sleeping on the street,” explained Mr Bartlett.
“We thought our collection would help the standard of living at Christmas, but then it seemed to snowball and, with the amount of money we were raising, they managed to extend the night centre by six beds.
“In fact, the number of homeless people in this area has reduced by six per cent in the last twelve months.”
The funds were handed over to the charity’s chief executive, Dr Jan Sheldon, at the Gamekeeper pub on Saturday.
Dr Sheldon said: “We are grateful to the volunteers who have devoted their time to collect for St Martin’s and to the public who supported this appeal.
“This donation makes a real difference to the people we support. It means that we can accommodate more people in our hostel who, otherwise, would be sleeping rough on the streets.”
Tony Man, proprietor of the Gamekeeper pub, said: “I was impressed with the organisation of the fundraising in general, which saw lots of people getting together to raise money for a good cause.
“Old Buckenham is like that really; the people are very supportive.”
St Martin’s Housing Trust is based in Norwich and works to encourage independent living and prevent homelessness by offering housing, support and care to the most vulnerable.
Life skills co-ordinator Nicky King said the charity works hard to teach practical skills to people who have been homeless so that they are equipped to live a more independent life.
She said: “Providing a bed for the night is just part of the answer.
“At St Martin’s, we look at long-term solutions for people so they are able to look after themselves, gain employment and live a fulfilling life.”
Mr Bartlett said he became involved with the charity after retiring.
“I think, like a lot of people, you don’t like walking through the street and seeing a person sleeping out over night,” he said.
While raising an average of £30,000 every year, Mr Bartlett said the cause was prepared to take a further step to help the issue of homelessness.
He added: “We have to change the strategy soon.
“We can’t just raise the money to help the homeless, we have to try to help stop people becoming homeless in the first place.”