A brief history.
1994 The group had it’s first meeting, we were seven people some had been diagnosed with cancer and some had nursed loved ones with cancer. We all wanted to help others so we decided to be a fund raising group and spend the money helping cancer patients.
1995 We had heard of a Home Comforts Lending Service where equipment is bought by the group and loaned to people in their own homes. After raising our first £1,000 we spoke to the district nurses and asked them what equipment we should buy, they advised us to buy commodes, raised toilet seats and special cushions and mattresses. So with £500 we started the Home Comforts Lending Service.
1996 We became a registered charity. This enabled us to apply for grants to help with costs.
1998 We applied for and received a grant from the National Lottery for £5,000. With this money we purchased a Nimbus mattress £3,000, an AlphaXcell mattress £900, a word processor and printer — to enable us to do our own leaflets etc — and a photocopier so we could do tickets and posters for our fundraising events.
1999 We wanted to open a Drop-in centre where people could come in for a chat and a cup of tea. This would also make it easier for anyone who needed help to find us. So again we applied for and received a grant for £10,000, with this we renovated a shop on the High Street and turned it into our very own Drop-in centre. We also decided to open up our services to anyone with a serious illness or disability.
2001 We needed the retail side to pay the utility bills but space in the centre was limited, so we decided to rent another premises. This we did with the help of a grant to pay the rent. This meant we could sell more items and have more room in our centre.
2001 was a very special year for us because we won the Whitbread Volunteer Action Award for Wales. Christine Stephens and Debbie Powell went to London to accept the award, plus a cheque for £1,000 from Princess Michael of Kent in a celebration luncheon at the Whitbread Brewery.
2002 In June it was volunteer’s week and we received an award from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action. It was in acknowledgement of the outstanding contribution made by everyone at “Helping Hands”.
2003 The workload was getting heavier and we were finding it hard to cope, so with a grant from Caerphilly County Borough Council we employed an admin/finance manager who works 30 hours a week.
We have now purchased our first vehicle, it is big enough to take the Home Comforts Lending Service equipment. We can now deliver and pick up equipment without having to ask the family of clients at a time when they may be stressed or bereaved. With the help of volunteer drivers we are also using the car to take clients to hospital appointments and for treatment.
2005 We were very proud to come second in the South Wales Echo’s Community Champions Award, it was out of 38 groups so it was quite an achievement.
2006 We have now become a Company Registered by Guarantee so are a Charitable Company. We have four Trustee/Directors they are Peter Bailie, Ann Darlington, Christine Stephens & Joyce Williams. We needed a Volunteer Co-ordinator and this year we had a grant to employ someone to fill the post.
This is a very exciting year for us as we have won The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. We had a presentation night with the Lord Lieutenant of Gwent Mr. Simon Boyle who presented us with a certificate and a crystal award on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. In July the four Trustee/Directors represented “Helping Hands” at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.
2007 Along with the existing four Directors we have another three, they are Verena Harris, Hester Jones & Doris Shurmer.
To date we have over £100,000’s worth of equipment in our Home Comforts Lending Service.
We have raised well over £500,000 and have helped hundreds of families in the upper Rhymney Valley
We have received over £100,000 in grants to help with various projects.
We are a local charity and are able to listen to the residents and know exactly what their needs are and to help them immediately. Something that national Charities and N.H.S are unable to achieve. When someone is serious ill they are unable to cope with endless forms and assessments – all they want is immediate help and that is our aim to make the carer’s life easier and the patient’s life more comfortable.