A group of fundraising friends shared memories and rolled back the years after being reunited at a celebration tea party. The East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) Lowestoft Friends Group disbanded just before Covid struck but not before raising more than £300,000, having been formed in 1988.
From small beginnings, with just six people sitting round a kitchen table, the group became prolific fundraisers, organising everything from garden parties, flower shows and dances to seafront walks, quizzes and mulled wine evenings. Other highlights included fashion shows, drinks and canapés parties, a colour dash, a Santa Run and even staging a version of TV hit The Weakest Link. Not to mention many, many bucket collections.
As a way of saying thank you, EACH recently organised a special tea party where ten of the friends enjoyed sandwiches and cakes at The Nook. Some still see each other regularly while others had not been together since before the pandemic.
They took a trip down memory lane while looking at old photos and newspaper cuttings.
“We’ve had a lot of fun down the years,” said former chairman Helen Morris, who got involved in 1999 and was secretary when the group disbanded in 2020.
“It was hard work at times but I have so many great memories and we’re proud of everything we achieved – not to mention extremely grateful to everyone who contributed, either as a supporter or committee member, over the past 30 years. We always tried to do something every year and our ‘Preparing for Christmas’ event became a staple, at Pakefield Village Hall.
“We had flower-arranging demonstrations, chocolate-making sessions and top tips for wrapping presents. It was great fun and always worthwhile, knowing we were raising funds for such a special cause.
“It’s an incredible amount and just shows how everything adds up. Even the smallest fundraisers contributed to our total and every pound made such a difference.
“Lowestoft is the kind of place where lots of people know each other and that meant having connections and relationships with banks and businesses in the town, which also definitely helped.”
The group formed a fundraising committee and had regular meetings, with two of the initial members being grandparents of a service-user at Quidenham (EACH’s former Norfolk base).
“No-one had heard of EACH when we started doing collections,” said Helen.
“They didn’t know what we were raising money for until we mentioned Quidenham. Then the penny dropped and they’d say ‘ah, why didn’t you say so at the start!’
“EACH has grown so much since then, going from a small, local children’s hospice to a much bigger, far-reaching organisation. There’s a real warmth towards it and people feel a connection.
“To some extent, that went to a whole new level when The Princess of Wales, then The Duchess of Cambridge, became Royal Patron. EACH was suddenly on the national and even international stage and it’s much the same with Ed Sheeran. They’re two huge names.”
The Friends Group had started preparing for a quiz night before it was cancelled during lockdown in March 2020. Given the amount of work already done, they decided to have one last swansong by holding it recently instead.
It proved another huge success and raised more than £1,800, boosted by a bumper donation of £1,350 from the Freemasons.
“It was definitely time to call it a day,” said founder member Carole Drennan.
“We were all getting older, numbers were dwindling and it felt like a natural end. Covid then came along and that reinforced our decision.
“It was sad and the end of an era, because we’d had great fun organising our fundraisers. Going to Quidenham, as we were fortunate to do on several occasions, always crystalised our reasons for wanting to help.
“To see where our money was being spent, and what a difference it made, definitely fuelled our motivation and I’d like to thank everyone who supported us over the years, making this amazing total possible.
“It gave us the inspiration to carry on and keep planning things, repeating successful ventures and also thinking up new ideas.”
EACH Community Fundraiser Ellie Miller organised the tea party and all the friends left with thank you cards and butterfly pin badges.
“It’s hard to put into words how grateful we are for such incredible support over the course of so many years,” she said.
“The Friends Group raised a staggering amount from many different fundraisers and collections and that money has made such a difference to our vital work. Hosting the tea party was the least we could do and it was a joy to meet everyone, see them together in one room and hear their wonderful stories.”
EACH has a shop in London Road South, Lowestoft. To find out more about volunteering there, pop into the store, email manager Lee Carter via email@example.com or call 01502 563726.