Lottery grant saves veterans’ charity

THE work of a charity which supports ex-servicemen has been saved by a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

The money means that the Westfield-based Quick Response Memorial Woodland will be able to continue helping former armed forces personnel who are in difficulty.

Debbie Hornblow and Paul Cooling with a memorial to men and women in the services who died in conflicts around the world since the Second World War

The charity had been planning to scale back its work because of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown.

The charity, whose chairman Paul Cooling lives in Westfield with Debbie Hornblow, the organisation’s secretary, assists ex-servicemen in times of difficulty. It also has three acres of memorial woodland at Holmbury St Mary, near Dorking, which is used as a place of reflection by former soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families.

Short-term emergency help to ex-servicemen includes helping to secure temporary accommodation, providing warm clothes and food and paying utility bills. There is also advice on making contact with larger charities that provide longer-term help.

Debbie said: “As a small independent charity we are able to react immediately when it is most needed. These chaps are proud and only ask for help when they really need it.”

She said that the first ex-serviceman they helped was a man in Woking, more than five years ago.

The entrance to the memorial woodland at Holmbury St Mary

“We were in town walking through the precinct when a chap sat on a bench shouted out ‘Queensman’ to our chairman, who was wearing his fleece with the Queen’s Regiment badge on it.

“The chap was seriously down on his luck and living rough in woodland just outside Woking. We helped him and the charity then begun.”

Paul is a disabled former soldier who did three tours in Northern Ireland and most of the trustees have been in the services.

Debbie comes from a long line of military men. Her father was in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was held prisoner by the Japanese. She said the memorial woodland serves several purposes.

“Ex-servicemen from all over the United Kingdom, and as far afield as Australia, visit the woodland to walk or sit,” said Debbie. “Some who are able will work on the grounds and they are able to talk to like-minded individuals.

“Those who are suffering from the effects of active service be it some years ago or recently find the place extremely therapeutic.

“The grant is of enormous help both to ensure we have funds to help our ex-servicemen in times of difficulty and to ensure we can purchase the tools needed to keep the maintenance of the woodland up to the standard it needs to be for the safety of our visitors as well as making it a pleasant place to walk around.”

Debbie said COVID-19 has meant that the usual fundraising events have been cancelled, including an Easter egg hunt and the anniversary celebration and commemoration service planned for 6 June.

The lockdown has also created extra mental stress and Paul and Debbie have been phoning and visiting some ex-servicemen while keeping social distance.

Woking MP Jonathan Lord said he was delighted with the lottery grant. “It will help give much needed support to our deserving ex-servicemen at this difficult time,” he added.

Debbie said that a recent raffle, licensed by Woking Borough Council, provided an extra £1,800 for the charity’s funds.

She said that the easing of lockdown restrictions had meant that small groups had been able to visit the woodland and it was hoped that this would increase as regulations changed further.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Editorial Team