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Local branch contact details
Monday to Friday 09.00-17.00 Contact by Email or Telephone only. For Tutshill, Sedbury, Beachley (Royal Forest of Dean) see Chepstow Gwent.
Phone: 01452 520 255
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WHY A VISIT FROM SUPPORTER JULIE KENNEDY MAKES OUR DAY
SSAFA in Gloucestershire had a surprise visit of the very best kind recently when supporter Julie Kennedy asked if she could call in to one of the charity’s regular monthly meetings of its volunteers.
The reason for her request? She’d recently had a major birthday celebration and not wanting anything for herself, had asked guests to her party to forget about bringing gifts to make a donation to SSAFA instead!
They all agreed that would be a perfect way to celebrate her milestone and the end result was a cheque for £500 which she handed over to Jeff Mays, one of the charity’s team of Gloucestershire volunteers.
Branch chairman Tony Singer quickly captured the moment on the camera on his phone and said Jeff; “He didn’t even have to ask me to ‘Smile Please.’ That was the natural reaction when Julie told us why she had asked if she could visit our meeting.
“We are used to being given a warm welcome when we visit ex members of the armed forces who make contact asking for our help, but this time it was our turn to be glad to have a chance to meet someone like Julie.
“She and her friends made the day special for us, and her gesture will in-turn enable us to make life a little easier for the kind of people who have already served their country well, but now need some help themselves.”
REACHING OUT TO SAAFA SUPPORTERS AND THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED
Gloucestershire’s branch of SSAFA marked Armistice and Veteran’s Day by being out in force reaching supporters as well as Clients in November.
60 members of the Veterans in Prison Association mustered at HMP Ashfield for a salute, wreath laying and inauguration of a new forget-me-not memorial garden in the prison grounds. Our prison in-reach volunteer Peta Hoyle had arranged for Air Vice Marshal Sir Dusty Miller to take the salute on behalf of the Royal Air Force. Several of the inmates as well as guests, who included, the Hon Rupert Soames OBE, CEO of Serco, which runs the prison, added to the event by reading poems in honour of those who had served in the past.
Later in the month our branch secretary, Dick Blakermore helped fly the flag for SSAFA while manning a display to help widen awareness of our work in the region. It was the 2nd time in recent years that we had been invited to participate at a Chepstow race course meeting.
One of the main features this year was a presentation featuring some of the 72,396 shrouded figures which had each been hand made by Somerset artist Rob Heard. In advance of Armistice day they had all been on display in London’s Olympic Park. There was one to commemorate each person to have died in the Somme area during the First World War.
“The London display was a graphic demonstration of the scale of lives lost in a single area of World War One,” said Dick. “Our presentation was only a fragment of the one in Olympic Park, but it did bring home to the people who saw it what a sacrifice had been made in the 5 years of the Great War. It also helped to underline why SSAFA’s work is equally necessary to support the members of our forces and the families who have been involved in, or affected by more recent conflicts.”
SSAFA VOLUNTEER PETA SHOWS THE HIGH SHERIFF LIFE BEHIND BARS
Even the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire isn’t normally guaranteed a full house when he is asked to speak in the County, but there were no empty seats for a recent talk he gave for our volunteer Peta Hoyle…
Peta is SSAFA’s “Prisoner In-Reach” visitor, whose casework involves giving help, advice and counsel to veterans who have ended up serving time behind bars. She asked High Sheriff Charles Martell if he would like to be a guest of Vicky Pails, director of HMP Ashfield and her deputy, Anne-Marie Newman, to speak to the 82 members of its Veterans in Prison Association to mark Armed Forces Day.
It turned out to be a double first -- the first time the High Sheriff had been given such an invitation as well as the first time SSAFA in Gloucestershire had organised an event to mark Armed Forces Day when none of the audience could leave! Though historically the Sheriffs were responsible for maintaining law and order in their county, these days being a High Sheriff is a non-political, Royal appointment, with a focus on encouraging crime prevention and community cohesion.
As Peta explained after the visit: “Many High Sheriffs place a focus on work with young people; voluntary groups, like SSAFA, and crime reduction. As Sheriffs hold their honorary position for just a year it seemed to the prison officers I work with and myself that the visit would be beneficial for everyone concerned and that’s the way it turned out. Charles Martell was surprised by how many veterans there were at Ashfield and the prison leaders were very enthusiastic about introducing him to their work and enabling the prisoners to hear what he had to say.”
TETBURY CADETS PUT THEIR BEST FOOT FORWARD FOR SSAFA
In a year when the country has been commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings, Tetbury’s Army Cadets are going to be putting their best foot forward and taking on a 60-mile challenge to raise funds for SSAFA, the country’s longest establish
Stimulated by a conversation he had with a veteran who had been supported by SSAFA, Jake, who will be 16 in July, decided to live up to his surname and began planning his event at the beginning of the year. He quickly gathered the support of his fellow cadets and their colour sergeant, Kamila Gerbicka.
With help from his grandfather, Rob, who worked out a safe route through the county from central Gloucester to the seafront at Weston, the group are now in training and believe it will take them close to 18 hours of walking from start to finish.
The troop will be collecting donations for SSAFA on the route and began practicing for that part of the exercise at the recent Tetbury Woolsack races. These draw a big crowd to Tetbury each spring bank holiday and they proved their social skills are as good as their fitness work by persuading spectators to put more than £400 into their collection buckets.
ARMY VETERAN BILL SAYS THREE CHEERS FOR JOINING FORCES
Living ‘off grid’ without mains gas or electricity might seem adventurous when your young, but it isn’t all that much fun when you’re a force’s veteran heading towards his 9th decade…
That’s what our Joining Forces team thought when they heard from colleagues in Age UK that Gloucestershire veteran Bill Spalding was facing the winter in a home with no mains gas, electricity or working cooker.
Providing the right help to bring Bill’s living conditions into the 21st century wasn’t a problem that our volunteers come across every day of the week, but working together, SSAFA and Age UK have now organised the installation of a new LPG fuelled cooker for Bill, along with an electricity generator to power lighting and other appliances.
An ex-Gloucester Rugby player and member of the Royal Army Service Corp, Bill is now not only able to invite the two volunteers who gave him a helping hand to tea, he can also follow the Six Nations rugby tournament, one of his favourite sporting events, on television!
The wood-burning stove that had been providing heating for his house is still doing a great job at keeping him warm, but being able to easily turn on his new oven for a morning cuppa gives a much better start to his day.
“Bill is one of those people who has become used to looking after himself and doesn’t readily ask others for help,” says SSAFA volunteer Emlyn Phennah. “His independence means he is the type of person who can easily slip through the normal social security net. By working together with Age UK, who came across his situation, we have been able to show that Joining Forces isn’t just a concept, or slogan, it’s the basis of teamwork doing real good for our veterans.
In this case our Age UK partners have been able to provide a forces veteran with valuable advice and assistance and we have been able to organise funding to give him a much better lifestyle in his later years.”
THERE’S A FAST-GROWING TASTE FOR VETERAN’S BREAKFASTS
Former members of the armed forces living in Gloucestershire have developed a fast-growing taste for starting the day with old comrades, thanks to the growing number of veteran’s breakfasts being supported by Joining Forces,
Involvement in the events was one of the first joint activities to be developed when SSAFA and Age UK began working in partnership, aiming to give support to ex-servicemen living in the county.
With funding provided by the MOD, the Joining Forces objective is for both charities to combine their individual knowledge, experience and expertise to help ensure that former forces personnel receive the benefits, help and support they deserve, whether they were based at home or abroad.
One thing the team from both organisations quickly discovered was that the strong comradeship of forces life is a key feature of the Services that many miss the most. This has been underlined by the fast-growing demand for the veteran’s events.
From a small start of just a handful of get-togethers, there are now 10 breakfast events being held across the county each month. They range in timing from the first Saturday in Lydney to the last Saturday in Gloucester, and from Coleford in the Forest of Dean to Cirencester in the South East. Their main aim is to provide positive comradeship, good conversation and a great reason to get together on a regular basis. If you haven’t been along to one yet you can check all the venues and dates on the SSAFA Gloucestershire and AGE UK Facebook pages.
If there isn’t a date or location that suits keep checking for more news. As there are still gaps to be filled, plans are already being finalised to launch an 11th venue in the north, the aim being to cut down on travelling distance for veterans who currently have to drive to reach their nearest event.
WHY NOT COME AND JOIN US?
In our local community there are men and women who served their country well and have now fallen on hard times. SSAFA’s purpose is to be there to lend a helping hand to those who need it most. We are always keen to find new volunteers
Our assistance ranges from visiting isolated veterans in their homes to providing support to those with housing needs; accessing funds for house adaptations for service men or women injured whilst fighting for their country, to sourcing invalid aids needed by veterans who have answered their country’s call for help, but now need someone to respond to their needs.
The work of SSAFA volunteers can be uplifting, rewarding and to our clients, truly life changing.
SSAFA Gloucestershire is one of many branches in need of new volunteers to join our dedicated team. Our aim is to ensure that no call for help goes unanswered. Be a veteran’s hero. Join us as a volunteer today: https://buff.ly/2l7ziql
JOINING FORCES LIVES UP TO ITS NAME IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE
‘Joining Forces’, the collaboration project formed by the Gloucestershire branch of SSAFA, the armed forces charity, and Age UK is living up to its name with regular participation in Veterans Breakfast Clubs and other events in the county.
The clubs are a great way for comrades old and new to get together on a regular basis to share company, swap stories and memories and meet like-minded people in pleasant environments.
Currently there are four meetings in Gloucestershire each month. To make them accessible to as many veterans as possible they are spread throughout the county, from Goodrich to Gloucester, Lydney to Tewksbury. They take place on consecutive Saturday mornings, from 9.30 to 11.30.
In addition, the Joining Forces team of volunteers periodically organise special events, such as a recent visit to The Soldiers of Gloucester Museum, at Gloucester Quays. This included free entry and a mid-morning coffee and biscuits snack.
There were representatives in attendance from SAAFA and the Citizens Advice Bureau as well as Help The Aged, ready to provide assistance and advice to any of the county’s veterans who wanted to take advantage of it.
Keep checking the SSAFA Gloucestershire web site and our frequently-updated Facebook page if you’d like to be involved or hear about future events.
Current Breakfast club meetings are: -
Ist Saturday of the Month
Old Royal British Legion Club, Lydney
2nd Saturday of the Month
Royal Hop Pole Hotel, Tewkesbury
3rd Saturday of the Month
Cross Keys Public House, Goodrich
4th Saturday of the Month
The Toby Carvery, Brockworth, Gloucester
* See Facebook & Twitter for Information on Stroud's first Breakfast Club meeting *