‘Grant would help sustain the vital work of our charity’

‘Grant would help sustain the vital work of our charity’

THE founder of a Warwick charity for children with terminal and life-limiting illnesses has welcomed the Chancellor’s financial support which, she says, she hopes will help sustain their vital work during the pandemic.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Hatton Park-based charity helps with the emotional wellbeing of the children and their families as well as granting wishes and donating therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

It is estimated more than £120,000 in proceeds will be lost to their coffers with fundraising events wiped from the calendar due to COVID-19 for at least the next three months.

Molly Olly’s founder Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave.

At a recent Government daily news conference, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a generous UK support package worth £750m, including a dedicated £370m for small local charities.

He has also pledged to match pound for pound the proceeds from the BBC’s new Big Night In charitable appeal on April 23rd.

In his latest live speech to the nation, Mr Sunak said: “Some charities provide critical services to support the vulnerable people and communities. For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist. Those charities have never been more needed than they are now and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding.

“Some £370m of the funding will support small local charities working with vulnerable people. We all know who they are, those small charities in our village, our market towns, in pockets of our cities, the unsung heroes looking after the vulnerable and holding together our social fabric.

“At this time when many are hurting, tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives. It gives us hope, it makes us stronger and it reminds us that we depend on each other.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw is still awaiting confirmation that her charity qualifies for the grant but said: “We welcome the announcement by the UK Government. Large and small charities work together to improve the lives of children and the virus does not make these children any less vulnerable.

“Sometimes the work of smaller charities can be overlooked and thought to be less significant. However, from our experience and knowing the work that other small charities do, our belief is that we are all part of a larger jigsaw here to help support vulnerable children through extremely challenging times. We all have a value and often the nature of smaller more personal charities with more direct contact can be hugely beneficial and help support the work of the larger, national charities. The flatter structure of the smaller charities can help decisions be made faster.”

Molly Olly's Wishes, Molly Ollerenshaw
Molly Ollerenshaw just a few weeks before she passed away, aged eight.

Having gained its charity status in 2012, Molly Olly’s has so far helped more than 2,000 children from new-born to age 18 by granting individual wishes. They may take the form of equipment to help a child live day to day with their condition; an alternative therapy treatment to complement traditional medicine, or even a special occasion or day out.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

There are now three books in the series, all written and illustrated by local author Diane Maybey.

Rachel added: “Molly Olly’s are continuing to support children with life- threatening illnesses at this extraordinary time through COVID-19 in a variety of ways. This is through our funding of the first Consultant in Paediatric Palliative Medicine based at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who cares for children both at the hospital and in the wider community. This post has been funded by Molly Olly’s for two years. It is also through our wish granting that provides everything from supermarket vouchers or toys that can be used to occupy or distract children whilst undergoing treatment.

“The charity is also currently working with the local community nursing teams to see if we can help widen the offer of support and information available to vulnerable children and their families at this time.

“Like so many other charities, Molly Olly’s have seen numerous fundraising activities cancelled that will lead to a large shortfall in our charitable donations and we are concerned about the long-term impact. The charity supports hundreds of children each year and has supported several key NHS projects since being founded in 2011.”

Some 30 children a week in the UK are given a cancer diagnosis, and more are told that they have a life-threatening or terminal illness in one form or another. Many of these, especially those diagnosed with leukaemia will be under five years old.

Warwick MP Matt Western is taking up the charity’s case. He said this week: “Local charities such as Molly Olly’s Wishes do fantastic work to support those who are in desperate need. Every member of the community is facing hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak, and charities are no exception.

“I welcome the Government’s announcement to provide financial support to charities to ensure they can maintain their survival during and beyond this crisis. However, we are currently lacking in detail, and many organisations doubt that the funding available will be enough.

“I sincerely hope (and will be pushing for) local charities such as Molly Olly’s Wishes will receive their fair share.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw added: “While we look into this funding, these remain worrying and uncertain times and we need, more than ever, to pull together and support the most vulnerable. If everyone reading this made a small donation it could make a big difference.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or details of how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk or contact Rachel on 07747 854914.

CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

CORONAVIRUS: Local businesses salvage hen weekend for intensive care doctor

LOCAL businesses have answered the plea to surprise a young frontline NHS doctor who was forced to cancel her wedding and hen weekend after two years in the planning.

Melissa Hood and Mat Park, who have lived in Warwick for six years since meeting at Birmingham University, were devastated to learn they’d have to call off their big day in Tuscany, Italy, on May 25th.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali,
Melissa Hood and Mat Park take delivery of their Spanish five-course taster menu and wine from Tasca Dali.

But unbeknown to the bride – and determined not to let COVID-19 completely ruin the celebrations – her five bridesmaids reached out to local businesses from 200 miles away in Melissa’s home town of Newcastle, to cook up a series of special surprises for the couple.

And on Sunday they took in a steady stream of deliveries including food, drink and pamper treats. Central to the celebration was a five-course feast and wine courtesy of Tasca Dali Spanish restaurant in High Street, Warwick.

Other arrivals included complimentary cocktails from The Square and even a temporary hot tub from Lovely Tubbly, both businesses based in Warwick.

Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa, who works in ICU at Warwick Hospital, said: “It’s been the perfect storm of everything happening together like the wedding being cancelled, not being able to see family and this intense time at work.

“Mat and I were both gutted about the wedding. We felt bitter, upset and angry, almost like you’re mourning something. But when it started to become apparent how serious the pandemic was and you hear stories from other people in worse situations, you feel guilty for being upset because we’ve got it good compared to a lot of people.

“We started to look at rescheduling it for next year but because two of our bridesmaids and my dad are all teachers we are quite restricted. It has to be in the summer holidays.”

She added: “I’m so lucky to have such thoughtful and kind best friends. I feel humbled. It’s really taken me aback. We’ve been there for each other over the years but this has really brought home how much I love and miss them.”

“They managed to keep all the plans very quiet. I didn’t even know where the hen weekend was going to be. A lot of planning had gone into it and I was very excited about it but I’m so touched by their kindness and the kindness of these local businesses.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali

The makeshift hen party plans have been led by bridesmaid, and friend since school, Anna Gardner, who said: “Melissa is working so hard on the front line as a doctor, with her annual leave for the time being postponed, and all of her wedding dreams turned upside down. We wanted to show them both how much we love them and appreciate everything Melissa is doing for the NHS.

“We wanted to do something special for Melissa on what should have been her hen weekend, as we know how much she was looking forward to it.

“It was hard to think what we could do as us bridesmaids are in Newcastle, so I thought I would post a message in a group I found on Facebook and straight away I got messages, shares on the posts and offers of support, it’s been lovely and has brought some joy to a really hard time.”

The owner of award-winning Spanish restaurant Tasca Dali, Alex Clayton, said: “When I heard about Melissa and Mat’s story I was delighted to be able to do my bit to make their day special with a delivery of Tasca Dali’s delicious five-course taster menu, plus a bottle of wine.

Alex, who also owns Flamenco Spanish Restaurant in West Street, added: “Melissa is among our local frontline NHS team working so hard to protect us against the worst effects of this pandemic and, even though it is challenging times for the hospitality business, this is something I wanted to do, to say thanks.”

Dawn Blakemore, co-owner of Lovely Tubbly in Warwick, who arranged free hot tub hire for the day, said: “I really felt for Melissa. As if being a doctor in these times wasn’t challenging enough – and we sure appreciate the NHS now more than ever – we wanted to play our part in helping to give her a special day.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Richard Barrett-Constantinou prepares the cocktails from The Square outside Melissa’s front door.

Richard Barrett-Constantinou, who runs The Square in Warwick with his sister Joanna, said: “We provided some cocktails, a bottle of fizz and beers for Matt too so they could enjoy a private hen/stag party together and both feel special.”

Despite the huge disappointments, every shift in ICU acts as a reminder to Melissa, 28, to count her blessings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to tighten its grip on communities. But she is also quick to reassure.

“It is a very intensive environment because we’re waiting for the full storm to hit. But there has been a lot of planning and preparation gone in to trying to make things as safe as possible and lots of rearranging of the hospital.

“For me, actually, the most important thing is for those people who are genuinely sick with other medical problems that are not COVID related, like chest pains or stroke, not to be scared to go to hospital because of COVID, because they still need medical attention. I have noticed a significant difference in numbers and it does worry me.”

She added: “There’s been a lot of talk about lack of PPE but I haven’t had a problem with it personally. A lot of work has been put into amending the rota so that we minimise exposure. The hospital is looking after us and we are being well supported.

“It is very touching to hear the clapping every week and we’ve been receiving lots of donations of food and cake from the public.”

COVID-19, Coronavirus, Flamenco, Tasca Dali
Melissa and Mat link up for a remote celebration with the bridesmaids.

Throughout it all, Melissa says she manages to keep herself grounded with regular running and Mat’s support. And, despite the pressure on her profession, still looks forward to making a difference every day.

“I’m actually really grateful that I’m able to do this job. Despite all the sadness, it’s given me the opportunity to do what I came into this profession for and help people. It’s rewarding work.”

Melissa says she is looking forward to being able to visit her friends and family again after lockdown. But in the meantime, her overriding message is a familiar one.

“I want to say thank you to everybody for adhering to the lockdown measures. We all know it’s really hard but what they’re doing by being at home is really important and we are so grateful. We can see every day that it is making a difference.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Mat, who is working from home as a purchasing controller, said: “I do worry about her but Melissa is so keen to get in. She really does love her job. I’m here to support her to make sure it’s as easy as possible at home so she can do everything she can at work. I’m very proud of her. I stand outside and clap every Thursday much to Melissa’s embarrassment. To see her go off and make a real difference does make you feel proud. It’s really good they’re getting the recognition they deserve.

“I just hope it’s not just a World Cup for the NHS but that everyone will always remember this period and realise what they do all day, every day and every week of the year. Hopefully long term there will be more of an awareness and an appreciation for the best healthcare service in the world.”

CORONAVIRUS: A stitch in time to save lives

CORONAVIRUS: A stitch in time to save lives

THE make do and mend spirit is coming to the fore in the battle against the coronavirus thanks to a community initiative aimed at offering direct to help NHS workers on the front line.

It takes the form of a new group called Warwickshire Scrubbers which has expanded quickly to beyond 650 members, ranging from 14-year-olds working on sewing projects through to retired seamstresses, fashion sewers and lots of older shielding ladies who are relishing the chance to ‘give back’. They are all working to make scrubs, scrub caps, headbands and laundry bags, and distributing them to hospital teams across the county.

This comes following a requirement for staff to wear scrubs instead of their usual uniform due to pandemic guidelines.

Warwickshire Scrubbers, COVID-19, Coronavirus, pandemic
Doctors and consultants take delivery at The University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

Deliveries are being made to Warwick Hospital as well as St Cross in Rugby, George Eliot Hospital north of the county in Nuneaton and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire as well as Harbury and Chase Meadow Surgeries which have received scrubs packs.

For those not handy with a needle, there are plenty of other roles they can play such as driving to help with non-contact deliveries and collections.

Coordinator for the Hatton and Warwick area, Rachel Booth, said: “We can see this huge need to protect the NHS and healthcare workforce and this was a way we as sewers, fabric artists and small craft businesses can contribute. We are also being helped out by bigger businesses with fabric at great prices or donated, fundraising donations or fabric cutting en masse. Everyone can help.

“I have been amazed at the responses we have had from people, especially those being shielded wanting to do something to help. The desire to assist the NHS to keep staff safe and save lives is very strong. It’s giving people purpose at a very strange time where we have had a lot of structure taken away from us – jobs, business, schools, shopping etc.”

Warwickshire Scrubbers, COVID-19, Coronavirus, pandemic
Rachel Booth with some of her creations. Photo by www.littlebeanies.co.uk

“This is community spirit in action at a difficult time. People really are being amazing in their support. The demand is huge but we will continue making these things for as long as need to.”

Online fundraising appeals are also running alongside the practical support, already raising more than £9,000 to help meet costs of materials in the Coventry and south Warwickshire areas.

Abigail Sheridan de Graff, who is helping to coordinate the south Warwickshire appeal, said: “Due to Covid-19 a lot more scrubs are being required than usual. South Warwickshire Foundation Trust is trying to get three sets of scrubs per staff member.

“We have plenty of people who are willing to make scrubs but there is a cost involved to cover materials, printing patterns and distribution of resources. Any money raised goes solely towards helping make items required by staff in the NHS hospitals and other frontline healthcare providers.

“Any donations, big or small, are greatly appreciated and will make a really big difference to the daily lives of the NHS and other healthcare staff.”

To find out more about how to help contact Rachel at: Rachel@creativestamper.co.uk

Visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nhs-needs-scrubs? to donate for south Warwickshire and www.facebook.com/donate/1453479231480601/ to donate for Rugby and Coventry.

Entrepreneur overcomes tragedy and challenges to reap business success

Entrepreneur overcomes tragedy and challenges to reap business success

Kate Findlay is an inspiration.

At the age of 65, the entrepreneur -and grandmother – from Barford, did not dream she’d be named as a finalist for a national newcomer award.

But the recognition is understandable when you learn that she launched her online boutique gift shop Peach Perfect whilst also nursing her husband through the latter years of his degenerative illness.

So overcoming the commercial challenges of a pandemic is, unsurprisingly, something Kate is also taking in her stride, as she adapts to the growing needs of her online customers.

Kate Findlay, Peach Perfect, dementia

Gloucester-born Kate moved to Warwick aged 28, with her first husband following a transfer by her employers at the time, IBM.

But it’s not the career path she originally mapped out for herself having harboured dreams of becoming a doctor and going on to gain a degree in Psychology at Portsmouth Polytechnic.

Kate said: “It was a very different time and I was a very different person. I’d had to abandon my idea of becoming a doctor as I hadn’t got straight A’s – unbelievable though it now seems, girls had to get higher marks than boys to get into medical school. I knew I wanted to work with people but wasn’t entirely sure how, and rather randomly I decided to become a Clinical Psychologist. There was one post being advertised in the whole of Hampshire and a whole queue of eager graduates so I was beaten to that option.”

Fate then played a hand and led Kate onto a graduate training scheme for IBM’s head office in Portsmouth. And it was IBM that also led her to Ian when Kate became a wife and step mum to two sons, before going on to have their own son together. Robert is now 33.

After 18 years in the company, voluntary redundancy presented the still ambitious Kate with an irresistible opportunity to go it alone for the first time. It wasn’t long before her new marquee hire franchise business was born. But, after three years, her head was turned by a career opportunity too good to miss at Rover. This forced her to take a big step backwards from the marquee business and, eventually, to walk away.

It was to be short-lived however when, after just three weeks, Kate realised her mistake.

An 11-year spell at Cadbury’s followed, including a Senior IT management role until she was faced with the option of redundancy once again. And this time it would prove to be a decisive moment in her life.

She said: “When an option to take redundancy arose, I seized the chance to escape – and having battled through three decades of corporate life, I knew this time there would be no turning back. I thought, this is my chance to do something for myself. I’d always felt that there had been unfinished business with the marquee project. I wanted to be my own boss. I realised corporate life didn’t really appeal to me.”

Peach Perfect, Kate Findlay, dementia
Kate and Ian pictured on holiday in Barbados in 2016.

It was at this time The Real Britain Company was born. A new bespoke independent travel service, it was an exciting new venture for the couple, if not entirely impulsive as Kate admits the idea had been brewing for some time.

“When I get an idea in my mind it is like a grit in an oyster to produce a pearl, it stays there and starts to gather momentum and form into something. The idea was already pretty well formed even by the time I left Cadbury’s.”

But it was also whilst travelling on one of their many research trips for their company that Kate recalls noticing the first signs of Ian’s dementia.

She said: “It first became clear something was wrong about 10 years ago. We were on holiday in Kent doing one of our Real Britain forays and Ian had become very fearful of things. He wouldn’t walk along the white cliffs of Dover. He also started to forget conversations that we’d had just minutes before.

“Also he didn’t feel right. That summer, we’d been married for 23 years, he bought me a ring and said he had planned to give me this for our 25th wedding anniversary but said he didn’t want to wait that long. He knew something was wrong. He’d say ‘what’s the matter with me?’

“We went to the doctors just after getting back from the trip and they said it was anxiety and depression – but we just knew that was a load of rubbish.

“Then it was backwards and forwards trying this drug and that drug and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, psychiatrists and brain scans without a firm conclusion. It wasn’t until Ian was finally referred to a memory clinic that, after six-and-a-half years he was diagnosed with a form of dementia condition called Lewy Body Dementia or DLB.

“It was a bit of a relief after all that time actually because it made sense of all his symptoms – and because the support for Parkinson’s is so much better than it is for Alzheimer’s. The Parkinson’s Society was brilliant.“

But it was to bring an abrupt end to their travels, as Kate explains: “It was becoming increasingly obvious that Ian was struggling to cope with the demands of the business and I was having to do all the work as well as care for him. We had made many changes to our life, one of which was closing down our beloved company.”

But it’s hard to keep a good woman down and wasn’t long before Kate embarked on her next solo project.

“For a few years, I’d been fascinated with the idea of running an online gift shop with a difference – a store that stocked beautiful and practical presents for people like me who wanted good quality gifts without any gimmicks.

A friend of mine who is a Shakespearean professor collaborated with a chef on a cookery book called The Food of Love: A Taste of Shakespeare in Four Seasons full of Elizabethan recipes and references to it in Shakespeare. But the publishers didn’t really know how to promote it because it’s not a standard cookery book or history book. I thought, there must be lots of things like this that people just don’t know about that make lovely presents so that was another catalyst. When I did eventually do it I made the book my first product.

“It was 2015 and Ian was well into the symptoms by then. He failed to understand how he could help with the business in any way at all. I think he was very proud of me but also very frustrated and upset that he couldn’t do anything to support me,” she said.

“I knew deep down I still hadn’t achieved everything I want to achieve in life. I knew I needed something else. I realised what was coming and that I’d end up being a carer but needed something to focus on that would go beyond his death. I thought I can’t be just a carer. It’s not who I am. You don’t choose to be a carer, it’s forced upon you. So the business has been an absolute Godsend.”

Ian’s condition deteriorated quickly and simple everyday tasks such as emptying a vacuum cleaner, making a cup of tea or even lifting a fork to his mouth, eventually became impossible.

He sadly lost his battle with DLB in March last year, aged 66.

Since then Kate has worked hard, in his honour, redoubling her efforts – and growing Peach Perfect, which has won recognition from Ladies First Networking Group. But she’ll now have to wait until September to find out if she has been selected as the category winner from six finalists.

Kate Findlay, Peach Perfect, dementia

In the meantime – and as, like all businesses, she stares into the abyss of COVID-19, she has vowed, with extra precautions in place, that it’s business as usual.

She said: “To begin with everything went completely dead because people were worried about finances and so on. Things are now picking up because they realise people still have birthdays and need to entertain the kids so we’re particularly selling a lot of craft kits and things for the garden.”

Looking back it is clear there have been many forks in the road of Kate’s life journey so far – but today she’s among the first to champion the ambitions of wannabe entrepreneurs – of any age.

“You’re never too old to do anything. It’s your frame of mind that’s important. It’s never too late if you’ve got the idea and the wherewithal to do it. In fact, it keeps you young.”

She concluded: “I could never have foreseen the cultural changes and the twists and turns I’ve experienced in my working life over the past 40-odd years. But looking to the future, I’m certain of one thing at least – this is my time to shine. And I’m loving every moment of my new business life as an online retail entrepreneur!”

Visit Peach Perfect at: here

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

IT just got easier to shop for food and drink from independent producers, thanks to a brand new online marketplace that launches this week.

FLOC Market allows food lovers to get their hands on everything from meat and wine to beers and cakes from independent producers, traders and specialists in their area through one central marketplace.

Inspired by the surge in interest in buying from local food and drink producers, entrepreneurs Lewis Edwards and David Clarke want to help independent businesses get online, sell direct to their customers and build an audience of loyal fans. As firm supporters of shopping locally, they hope their platform will support independents to serve the community in a new, innovative way.

FLOC creators David Clarke (L) and Lewis Edwards (R)

Their creation, FLOC Market, launches this Friday (17th April) and allows businesses to list products in a virtual store within one central marketplace, saving them the cost and extra work involved in creating their own online shop. It also makes shopping easier for customers, putting everything they need from an array of local businesses all in one place.

Lewis said: “We wanted to create an online marketplace that would encourage people to use local producers and give independent businesses the chance to easily stand out to potential customers who want to shop local and want to buy quality produce, but aren’t always sure where to look.

“The current environment is incredibly challenging for small businesses and it’s never been more important to help connect consumers to them via one, easy-to-search place. Many are offering brilliant contactless delivery or click & collect services which help people avoid supermarkets and shop safely in accordance with government guidelines. Our goal is to reduce workloads of already busy independent producers and independents away from admin-heavy duties of answering large numbers of calls, emails and messages.”

With categories including wines, beers, deli, bakery, fresh produce, meats and more, FLOC Market is a one-stop shop for discovering fantastic local food and drinks. Lewis and David are also planning on developing further tools to help people discover new brands and products, as well as helping partners streamline orders from local buyers.

While FLOC Market is expected to prove especially useful during the current lockdown restrictions, the service is here to stay and is hoped to encourage the long-term use of independent, local producers with a focus on supporting the local economy and reducing food miles.

Several businesses have already signed up to FLOC Market with many more expressing an interest, and while Lewis and David are focusing on the Midlands to start there is capacity for it to expand across the UK in the future.

Lewis added: “FLOC Market gives businesses their very own store where they can accept payments online, and help manage stock efficiently to maximise profitability. A big benefit is that it also allows businesses to manage delivery of products, both locally and nationally if they serve the whole UK, they can set radius limits and special delivery options to ensure their customers’ expectations are met.

“We appreciate that time is of the essence, so we’ve made it super easy and cost-effective for businesses to get started. There’s no cost to join or set up the shop or products and each order fee is 10% with a 2% transaction fee.

“On FLOC Market, customers will discover new products and producers by browsing the marketplace but we also give each business a unique ID link that they can share on their own social media channels and use to promote their shop.

“We’ve already got lots of local businesses interested and are looking for more. If you’re a small, local independent food and drink business, we want to help you. Get in touch at www.floc-market.co.uk