'We need your help' plea as charity's supporters lose faith
- Credit: Archant
The boss of a hospice charity appeal that estimates it lost up to £700,000 during the pandemic has hit back at claims there is no realistic prospect of the facility ever being built.
Three years ago East Coast Hospice (ECH), the charity behind a bid to build Margaret Chadd House, on the Hopton/Gorleston border told this newspaper it would be up and running by November 2020.
At the time it was calculated it would take another 40 years to raise the £5.2m required, based on the £62,194 raised in 2016/2017.
The latest published accounts for the year 2019/2020, however, show the charity lost money, with its string of shops costing more to run than they made.
ECH chairman Jennifer Beesley admitted it had been a bad year topped off by Covid, but said she remained determined to make the hospice dream a reality for the benefit of the people of Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
The 74-year-old said there was a raft of costly work going on behind the scenes including a £350,000 archaeological dig on the site in Sidegate Road, and that the costs of running the charity and the shops were all that were being met.
She made a plea for everyone to work together to make it happen.
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"We are not making any money. And if you don't think that worries us all, it does," she said.
"We are only making enough to keep the charity going but we believe it (the hospice) can still be done, but people have got to support us."
On the plus side a link with St Helena Hospice in Colchester meant benefiting from their expertise and the prospect of shared services which would help save money in the long run, she said.
As they came out of lockdown an information and donation drop-off point was taking shape in a mobile building on the site where people would be able to view detailed plans, and recovery plans included a relaunched lottery, she added.
"The ball rests in the hands of the people of Great Yarmouth and Waveney," she said.
"Because if they do not want the hospice that is okay with us. We will close the charity down and sell the land and it wont go to a local charity either because there isn't one.
"It will take us a few more years I am sorry to say, and this Covid has not helped."
Malcolm Metcalf, whose travelling exploits raised tens of thousands of pounds to support the vision, said he had lost faith in the organisation that inspired him and says the money should be handed over to a different appeal if it has any prospect of being used as it was intended.
Having himself raised close to £30,000 he believes there is now no realistic prospect of the hospice ever being built and that it is time to admit defeat.
His comments come as the charity's accounts reveal it made a loss of £74,500 in the year 2019-2020 taking in the first month of the pandemic.
East Coast Hospice was set up in 2007 with the aim of building a ten-bed palliative care centre.
When Mr Metcalf, 87, became involved in around 2014 he went on to become a proud ambassador, completing travelling feats that made headlines across the world.
“Nothing seems to be happening," he said. "I know times are hard but I am sorry to say I cannot ever see it being built.
“I had so much enthusiasm for it.
“I went all round England on my bus pass and I used to stand with buckets at supermarkets and the racecourse.
“All that seems to have gone by the wayside.
“It seems like now they are just raising money in shops to pay the shop keepers. They are not making any money at all."
He added: "Jenny has worked so hard for it but you have got to be realistic. It is time to admit defeat."
Victor Hardwick, a former driver for the charity, has also raised fears.
"All they have is what is in the bank and promises," he said. "And you can't spend promises."
When fundraising began for the hospice in 2007 the charity said it would cost £3m to build and open by 2010.
ECH has secured planning permission in perpetuity - which means it does not ever expire.
Accounts for 2019/2020 show the charity shops cost £596,000 to run but brought in income of just £589.000.
Total income was said to be £615,000 but £765,000 was spent.
Overall their funds, including assets, shrank from £2.65m to £2.6m.
The trustees annual report states they are "not too far off" starting building work and that while they have been able to build up reserves there was still "a considerable amount" to be raised.