ROYAL RECOGNITION FOR PUCKLECHURCH'S NSPCC SUPPORT
It was when her daughter Lauren was a baby that Juliet Hills decided she would like to do something to help the NSPCC. The original plan was for a coffee morning in the meeting room at Pucklechurch Community Centre – so how did that snowball over 24 years to raise £150,000 for the children's charity? “I don't really know,” admits Juliet, “but what I can say is that a large proportion of that money has come from the pockets of people in Pucklechurch, who have supported our efforts with unfailing generosity. I really cannot thank them enough.”
In those early days, Juliet approached the NSPCC, which suggested she set up a support group. At the time, there were 17 fund-raising committees around the area for the Bristol branch of the charity, which was chaired by the Duchess of Beaufort. However, the Pucklechurch one was unusual as it mainly comprised working mothers in their 30s rather than retired ladies. Nowadays there are only four committees left and our village group has a different age profile, although so far we have all resisted the blue rinses!
The first fund-raising event, run by Juliet and other founder members including Krissy Spencer, Rachael Nowak and Val Wills, was a fashion show, which raised £190.
The following year, 1990, saw the first of 20 auctions of goods and promises in Pucklechurch, which have all been well supported by people from the village and beyond.
Other regular activities have included our cheese and wine quizzes, summer suppers, coffee mornings and lasagne evenings. For many years we carried out house-to-house collections, which were organised by Mary James. More recently we have been found with collecting tins and buckets outside supermarkets.
A major contribution to our fund-raising came from Keith and Evelyn Shorricks, of Lansdown Road, who for 15 years sold bric-a-brac and books at car boot sales and fetes.
Keith, Evelyn and Mary all received long service awards from the NSPCC. Our jewellery project, also started by Juliet, has also brought in lots of cash over the years. It began with recycled jewellery and then moved into creations using semi-precious stones. We even had a commission in the 1990s to produce hundreds of earrings and necklaces for the charity's Christmas catalogue.
Juliet and Lauren attended a Buckingham Palace garden party at the end of May in recognition of all her work for the NSPCC. This is not the first time the Pucklechurch project has attracted royal attention. The late Princess Margaret, who was patron of the NSPCC, was very interested to hear about the jewellery at an annual council gathering in 1994. The year before, a pair of earrings was gratefully received by the “queen” of Coronation Street's Rovers Return Bet Lynch, otherwise known as actress Julie Goodyear!
Juliet is about to move to America with her husband David for three years, but the current group of around seven members intends to continue the fund-raising on a smaller scale. We will have a second-hand bookstall at Revel and a coffee morning in September. We call ourselves a group rather than a committee as we do not have a formal structure. Our meetings are held in one of the local pubs. We'd welcome anyone of any age who would like to join us.
As the headlines of the last few months have reminded us, the need for the NSPCC has not diminished over the last few decades. While it is celebrities in other areas and past times that have been in the news, children still need help here and now. The NSPCC opened a new service centre in Old Market, Bristol, last year. Its teams are working on a number of important schemes including: educating parents about the risks of shaking babies to reduce non-accidental head injuries; helping children aged eight to 13 whose parents have mental health issues; a home visiting programme to reduce the risk of harm to babies and toddlers and enhance parenting skills among people with severe drugs and alcohol problems; better identifying child neglect; supporting children in care.
For further information, visit www.nspcc.org.uk