Samaritans ‘stunned’ by record donation from Tamworth Co-op

The retail society has given the biggest ever single payment from its Community Dividend Fund to the local branch of the charity

The director of Tamworth Samaritans says she is overwhelmed by a £5,000 donation to her branch from Tamworth Co-op’s Community Dividend Fund.

The grant, which will help the branch recover from the lasting financial shock of the pandemic, is the largest ever handed out from the co-op‘s community support scheme, which distributes a five-figure sum to local causes each year.

The money is raised through shoppers donating the divis they have earned on their purchases. 

Judith Hepburn, director of Tamworth Samaritans, said: “To be honest I nearly fainted when I opened the cheque!

“I received a telephone call from the society’s chief executive saying the money was on its way. In my mind I thought it would be a similar amount to the average donation we receive which is around £100-£200. To receive £5,000 is just extraordinary. 

“We are so deeply grateful for this money as we are an independent branch and pay all our overheads ourselves. During the pandemic we obviously couldn’t get to events and hold our collection buckets out in public, and that has really stretched our resources. 

“What is so lovely about this donation is that, unlike some grants, it comes with no restrictions attached. That gives us a free hand to choose how we spend it.”

The branch will use £3,000 of the money to refurbishing the kitchen used by volunteers in between handling crisis calls at its base at Manor House in Lichfield Street.

“Our building in Tamworth is old, and although it does not suffer from issues such as damp, certain parts of it are in desperate need of updating,” said Hepburn.

“We have made various improvements such as bringing in new carpets, but the kitchen is in a very poor and unhygienic state. 

“Many of our volunteers come into the building after their own work shifts. When you’ve had a very distressing call to deal with – and we get a lot of those – it is essential for them to be able to make a cup of tea in a clean and nice place. They often need to take a break and come to terms with what they have been dealing with.  

“It is vital to provide a clean, professional environment for them. We need to do everything we possibly can to retain people like them, and to attract more people in future.” 

The remaining £2,000 will be spent on new furniture for the branch, including tables and chairs.

Tamworth Co-op chief executive Julian Coles said: “I think the importance of the work the Samaritans carry out in their free time is widely known. However, many people might not realise just how hard they have to fight for every penny to be able to continue their life-saving service. It’s heartening for us to be able to hand them such a substantial donation.  

“The Tamworth branch has previously won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award that can be given to a local volunteer group. That says a lot about the calibre of people we are supporting. I’d like to thank all our food shoppers who helped to raise this money by generously donating their dividends.” 

Mr Coles visited the branch this week to hand over the cheque with his former deputy Bob Read who was chair of the society’s board when the grant was approved. Mr Read previously enjoyed a career spanning 50 years and was second in command of the Tamworth Co-op when he retired in 2015.