THE outstanding fundraising efforts of a charity shop in Rothwell have been recognised by Help for Heroes which has benefited to the tune of more than £100,000 since 2011.
The shop, in the old Town Hall building, on Market Hill, was set up 12 years ago when Laurie Johnston and Irene James put their own money in, after the latter and two friends – one of whom was Laurie’s late wife, Rose – left another shop in the area.
Now, after raising an outstanding £105,000 for the Armed Forces charity, Laurie, Irene, the shop staff, and the amazing team of volunteer helpers have been recognised with a certificate, following their Over and Above award, in 2019.
Looking back at the start of a remarkable journey, Laurie, 82, explained:
“We decided we’d set up a charity shop and launched it in 2011 with no funding. Irene and I put our own money to get the business rolling and were going hand to mouth for a little while. But we went from strength to strength.
“We’ve had a lot of good volunteers come in, from the community, and work with us. When Rose died it was just me and Irene. We couldn’t have operated without the volunteers. We also have a couple of shop managers, who get paid – and they do a great job – but it’s the volunteers who are the backbone of the shop: the heroes of the Help for Heroes shop.
“Irene and I have never had a ha’penny from the shop – no wages or expenses. It costs around £60-70,000 a year just to run the shop. So that £100,000 is on top.
“We have a lot of people locally – and people who aren’t local – who come to the shop purely because it’s raising funds for Help for Heroes. We have ex-service personnel, mothers whose kids have been in the military, all sorts – and they come from far and wide.”
The decision to choose Help for Heroes as the shop’s benefiting charity was driven by Laurie’s own experience with the services and the timing of its conception.
Laurie, who served for five years in the RAF as a dog handler – before spending 30 years in the Met Police – added:
“This was at a time when the TV news kept showing all the bodies returning to the UK and parading the coffins through the streets. So, it was in everybody’s consciousness. I suggested we raise funds for Help for Heroes and the ladies were quite happy with that.
“The shop will remain. Irene and I will step aside as and when, but as and when we have the right people taking over.”
Dean Williams, Help for Heroes’ area fundraising manager, who presented the certificate, said:
“The team at the Heroes Charity Shop should be immensely proud of what they have achieved. They have built great relationships with their local community and continue to fly the flag for Help for Heroes as well as providing essential donations.
“With more and more veterans and their families coming forward for support, these donations are as vital now as they were in 2011, and we can’t thank the shop team enough for supporting our work: long may it continue.”
Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 30,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.
The Charity supports veterans, and their families, from any branch of the UK military – regulars or reserves – irrespective of length or place of service, and locally embedded civilians (and their families) who worked alongside our Armed Forces.
To get support, please visit: helpforheroes.org.uk.