Sunday, 31 May 2020

Charity sales volunteers in appeal for new venue

Charity sales volunteers in appeal for new venue

VOLUNTEERS who collect and sort donations to the Sue Ryder sales hope to launch their own version when the charity’s Nettlebed hospice closes at the end of this month.

The charity says it tried in vain to find a new home for the second-hand sales, which take place at Joyce Grove every three weeks and raise about £500,000 per year.

But the 200 or so volunteers, some of whom have worked there since the sales started in the early Eighties, say they weren’t approached for suggestions and believe they might be able to find a venue for their own event.

The group is awaiting responses from several landowners, including the Phillimore estate in Binfield Heath, but have already received a number of refusals.

The volunteers say they need about 4,000 sq ft of land with enough space for up to 300 cars to park if they are to operate on the same scale.

However, they would consider taking a smaller plot and selling a more limited range if necessary. They might give a share of proceeds to Sue Ryder, which is to continue its “hospice at home” service, but would look to support other causes too.

Volunteer Graham Spearpoint, from Shiplake, said: “We’re really struggling to find somewhere at the moment as most venues are too small or want huge amounts of money for a three- to five-year contract.

“We’re looking for a benefactor who might want to help us raise money for good causes.

“It wouldn’t be done under the Sue Ryder banner and although we could support them, I think there’s a lot of anger about the closure and we’d have to find a way to get past that.

“Nothing has come up so far and the lettings agents have warned us that it’s a pretty major fixture which the hospice was perfect for. If we could find somewhere in Henley town centre, it might at least solve the issue of finding parking places as people could use the car parks.”

Mr Spearpoint said he and many of his colleagues were upset at Sue Ryder’s decision not to provide inpatient beds elsewhere after the hospice closure.

The charity originally promised to do this but now says this wouldn’t be viable because more people want to die at home and occupancy rates at the hospice had fallen below 50 per cent in less than two years.

Concerned relatives who lost loved ones at the hospice have disputed this, saying they couldn’t have coped without the respite it offered.

Mr Spearpoint said: “Sadly, there’s a sense of apathy among the volunteers — they’re very disappointed at what’s happening and it’s harder now to motivate them.

“There’s 82 acres at Joyce Grove so they can’t understand why the sales can’t continue somewhere on the site and are keen to be involved in anything that replaces them.

“We’re hopeful that someone might be out there who can help. If not, it’s just going to die off and a lot of good quality items might just end up going to landfill.”

Sue Ryder says it searched unsuccessfully for more than a year to find a new home for the sales and sought help from staff and volunteers at its shops including the branch in Duke Street, Henley.

It said leasing a suitable space could be costly, as could insurance to comply with health and safety rules.

It is no longer accepting donations for the sales but smaller items can go to shops and furniture in sellable condition can be collected free of charge.

The charity says the hospice building, which is Grade II listed, is too expensive to run and wasn’t built for purpose.

It needs £3.1 million a year to operate in South Oxfordshire and only gets about a quarter from statutory funding so is urging the public to continue donating.

The final two sales at Nettlebed will take place tomorrow (Saturday) and on March 28.

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