The League of Friends
In 1969 representatives of local organisations were invited to The Beeches Hospital to discuss the formation of a League of Friends. Along with dentist Martin Brookes and others Val Wilcox attended on behalf of Buildwas W.I and became a member of the committee which was formed that night. Alec Watson explained that the aim of a League of Friends was not just to raise money but to befriend the residents and to raise awareness of the hospital in the local community.
The photo shows the Abraham Darby Band playing at a League of Friends Fete in the 1980. Click to enlarge.
“Our first fundraising event, a Cheese and Wine Party, took place at the hospital in December 1969 and, in the following years, we held fetes, coffee mornings, raffles, more Cheese and Wine parties, street collections etc. and local organisations raised money on our behalf.
To begin with we were able to provide small items such as bedside lamps and plant troughs. As funds built up we progressed to more ambitious projects and bought specialist baths with hoists, water and ripple mattresses and a summer house. A hair dressing salon was equipped and used by staff as well as residents; a projector meant we were able to hold film shows and pottery classes were paid for – I am sure many people must still treasure the products of those classes. Once a week we took the ‘Trolley Shop’ around the wards selling sweets and toiletries. At Easter and Christmas committee members took every resident a card and a small gift”
The Summer Fete became an annual event. It was held in the hospital grounds and as many residents as possible came out to enjoy the band playing. There were gymnastic displays, Scottish country dancing, and a children’s fancy dress. The staff ran the very popular tombola and the cream teas always sold out. The Friends made yards and yards of bunting to decorate the area and bought trestle tables for use as stalls and games tables.
“When a Reminiscence Group was formed by Shirley Geering, a member of staff, some of the committee members joined in. We went as wheelchair pushers (and wasp killers) on picnics to Dale End Park and on trips to Telford shopping centre as well as joining in the weekly meetings held in the Day Room”.
Val remained a committee member until 1992 but the good work was carried on by others for some years.