A brief history of ‘Helping Hands’ 1994 – 2005
The group had it’s first meeting, we were seven people, some were diagnosed with cancer and some had nursed loved ones with cancer. We all wanted to help others, so we decided to be a fundraising group and spend the money helping cancer patients.
We had heard of a Home Comforts Leading Service, where equipment is bought by the group and loaned to people in the own homes. After raising our first £1,000, we spoke to the district nurses and asked them what equipment we should buy. They advised us to buy commodes, raised toilet seats and special cushions and mattresses. So with £500 we started the Home Comforts Lending Service.
We became a registered charity. This enabled us to apply for grants to help us with costs.
We applied for, and received a grant from the National Lottery for £5,000. With this money we purchased a Nimbus mattress £3,000, an AlphaXcell mattress £900, a word processor and printer – to enable us to do our own leaflets etc – and a photocopier so we could print tickets and posters for our fundraising events.
We wanted to open a Drop-in Centre, where people could come in for a chat and a cup of tea. This would also make it easier for anyone who needed help to find us. So again, we applied for, and received a grant for £10,000. With this, we renovated a shop on the High Street and turned it into our very own Drop-in Centre. We also decided to open our services to anyone with a serious illness or disability.
We needed the retail side to pay the utility bills, but space in the centre was limited. So we decided to rent another premises. This, we did with the help of a grant to pay the rent. This meant we could sell more items and have more room in our centre. 2001 was a very special year for us because we won the Whitbread Volunteer Action Award for Wales. Christine Stephens and Debbie Powell went to London to accept the award, plus a cheque from Prince Michael of Kent in a celebration luncheon at the Whitbread Brewery.
In June it was volunteer’s week and we received an award from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action. It was in acknowledgement of the outstanding contribution by everyone at ‘Helping Hands’.
The workload was getting heavier and we were finding it hard to cope, so with a grant from Caerphilly County Borough Council, we employed an administration/finance manager who works 30 hours a week.
We have now purchased our first vehicle, it is big enough to take the Home Comforts Lending Service equipment. We can now deliver and pick up the equipment without having to ask the family of clients at a time where they may be stressed or bereaved. With the help of volunteer drivers, we are also using the car to take clients to hospital appointments and for treatment.
We were very proud to come second in the South Wales Echo’s Community Champions Award, it was out of 38 groups so it was quite an achievement.