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Veteran volunteers recognised for helping support children since 1940s

Release Date: 02 Jun 2017

Veteran volunteers who have been organising community events in south London for Barnardo’s since the 1940s are being recognised for their outstanding dedication during Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7).

The members of Beckenham Barnardo's Helpers Group have been supporting the charity since the 1960s

A group of nine Bromley friends who make up Beckenham Barnardo’s Helpers Group have now been volunteering for more than 250 years in total, organising an annual fete every year from the early 1960s to 2003, and a quiz night which continues to this day.

And the title of longest-serving fundraiser in London is claimed by Christine Clark, 74, of Purley, who began supporting the children’s charity in 1947 at the age of four.

Christine Clark is the longest-serving Barnardo's volunteer in London, starting 70 years ago at the age of four

Since then she has become Chair of Sanderstead Barnardo’s Helpers Group in Croydon, and has clocked up an amazing 70 years’ service, supported by seven fellow members including husband Cliff, 82, and daughter Caren, 37. Each year the group holds community events and raises around £5,000 in Christmas card sales.

Mrs Clark said:

I remember when I was four, we had a magazine at our school and it encouraged us to raise money to buy Christmas presents for Barnardo’s children. That started things off and I’ve been going ever since.

We’ve had all sorts of events, from spring, summer, autumn and Christmas fairs to barbecues, race nights, jumble sales, barn dances and quiz nights. We’ve been doing it for so long now, you just keep going.

I met The Queen once, and also Princess Diana when she opened a Barnardo’s service in Crystal Palace. We were standing on a raised bed full of brambles, and she turned to me and said ‘do mind your tights on those brambles’.

Over the years the two Helpers Groups were among those who represented Barnardo’s at the Chelsea Flower Show, and over the years they are thought to have raised at least £225,000 to help the most vulnerable children, young people and families.

The members of Beckenham Barnardo's Helpers Group have been supporting the charity since the 1960s

The Beckenham Barnardo’s Fete had its origins as far back as 1920 and would attract thousands of visitors each year, with activity centred on a bandstand in Croydon Park Recreation Ground where David Bowie once performed. A hovercraft, model planes and an impersonator of The Queen – aka local resident Jeanette Vane – have all featured.

Beckenham Helpers Group Chair Janet Venables, 73, of Bramerton Road, who has been supporting Barnardo’s for 55 years alongside her husband Ted, said:

At school I had a friend called Sarah who was a Barnardo’s girl, which is how I got to know about the charity. My dad also used to collect donation boxes from people’s houses, and when I was 18 he asked me to do it.

Our friends Barbara and Arthur Chandler have also been part of the group since the 1960s. We’d put on the fete every May Day Bank Holiday at the recreation ground. It had really strong community support – everyone was so happy and they really enjoyed coming out, and we would often raise more than £4,000 in a day.

We had to give up the fete 10 years ago because we’re all in our early 70s now and it was becoming too much work. But we decided we’d carry on with a quiz evening and that’s still really popular, so we’re not planning to stop yet.

Members of the two groups - and a third, Woodcote Barnardo’s Helpers Group in Croydon – are set to receive the charity’s milestone awards, which are awarded for every five or ten years of volunteering.

Lynn Gradwell, Director of Barnardo’s in London, said:

It’s amazing to think that these small groups of volunteers in Bromley and Croydon have worked so hard for so many years on behalf of Barnardo’s.

The money they’ve raised has made a real difference to the lives of countless children, young people and families, and I want to offer my sincere thanks to these inspirational people for everything that they done and continue to do.

To find out more about volunteering for Barnardo’s and details of local vacancies, please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/volunteering

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information please contact Dan Hodges on 07887 737 048 or email dan.hodges@barnardos.org.uk

Picture captions: Sanderstead Helpers Christine,  Cliff and Caren Clark; Beckenham group 1: A visit by ‘The Queen’ – aka local impersonator Jeanette Vane; 2/3: L-R Barnardo’s Beckenham Helpers Group members Ted Venables, Mike Saunders, Janet Venables, Ann Saunders and Dennis Jackson; 4: Barnardo’s Beckenham Helpers Group members Dennis Jackson, Ann Saunders, Mike Saunders, Janet Venables and Ted Venables

Volunteers’ Week runs from June 1 to 7 and celebrates the contribution of millions of people who volunteer in their local communities across the country. Barnardo’s is taking the opportunity to thank its 20,000-strong army of amazing volunteers as well as everyone who has given their time to support the charity.

Last year 248,000 children, young people and families were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 996 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

We work to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.

Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605

Follow Barnardo’s media team on Twitter @BarnardosNews


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