7th November 2019
One man’s bright idea has helped to raise £1 million to keep older people warm.
A decade ago, a retired auctioneer talked to the chief executive of Cumbria Community Foundation about creating a ‘Winter Warmth’ fund.
Myles Walker, now 81, explains: “It is remarkable how a twinge of conscience can give birth to a now ten-year-old millionaire! In those days, I delivered medicines for the local surgery to people stuck at home. One such patient, living in a small cottage, spent day and night in one room which had a fire with a back-boiler. She could not afford electricity for heating and seldom cooked. I told Andy Beeforth of my ambition to form a fund to help the many other elderly people in similar circumstances. He and his wonderful team formed The Winter Warmth Appeal, to which I recommend anyone who does not really need the government winter warmth payment to donate it – preferably with Gift Aid.”
Since the appeal was launched, thousands of older Cumbrians have been given a grant of between £150 and £250 to keep their homes warm in the winter.
And this year, several businesses and charitable trusts have pledged to match any donations given, so that more money will be available to prevent older people having to choose between heating and eating.
Any money donated between Monday 11th November and Monday 11th December to the Winter Warmth Appeal will be automatically doubled thanks to generous match funding from: EDF Renewables, Sellafield Ltd, John Laing Charitable Trust, WCF Ltd, The Hadfield Trust, The Johnson Fund and The Roselands Trust. The match funders have pledged a total of £57,000 to the ‘Winter Warmth Match Funding Challenge’ meaning that donations made during that time will be worth £114,000.
The Winter Warmth Appeal collects people’s warm generosity and gives it back out to vulnerable older people to ensure they can heat their homes properly and remain safe and well during the colder months.
90 year old Alan from Windermere said: “It made an awful lot of difference. I am able to keep my heating on and my house is nice and warm.”
Edward, 89, from Ulverston, said: “Our boiler broke last winter and we needed a new one. The winter warmth grant helped us with the diabolical cost of fuel which goes up and up each year. My wife and I are on a limited income and we need to keep warm at our age.”
73 year old John from Penrith has been in a wheelchair for 18 years after he had a stroke. He said: “It’s helped with my electric and gas bills. I am very cold when I get home and need to warm up. It’s handy to have the winter warmth grant.”
Ann and her husband live in Brampton, they’re both 81, she said: “It makes a huge difference paying our gas and electric bills.”
67 year old Linda from Distington, said: “It’s wonderful, we don’t have to think quite as much about putting the heating on. Last year they took the gas fire out and put an electric one in, which is much more expensive to run, but we’re tenants so we can’t choose what we have, We both get stuck in the house quite a lot for health reasons, so the money means we keep warm.”
Dennis, 86 from Barrow, said: “I live on my own and everything is difficult. The winter warmth grant makes a lot of difference; it goes towards my gas bill.
Cumbria Community Foundation works in partnership with Age UK in Cumbria to reach the most vulnerable people in our county. Alison Ambrose, Chief executive officer of Age UK Carlisle and Eden, said: “The Winter Warmth Fund, generated by Cumbria Community Foundation, plays a vital part in supporting vulnerable older people across Cumbria and helps to alleviate some of the winter pressures attributed to fuel poverty.”
One in eight households in Cumbria are said to be living in fuel poverty, it is one of the hidden issues in this rural county which greatly affects the health and wellbeing of those who cannot heat their homes.
Older people are more likely to live in poorly insulated, cold homes and to become seriously ill or even die during the winter. To keep warm, they must turn their heating up, but with a sharp increase in energy prices, many pensioners cannot afford to do so. Many suffer in silence during the coldest months, often hidden from view.
In a bad winter, an extra 300 older people in our county will lose their lives to the effects of plummeting temperatures. In our worst winters, this figure has risen to more than 500 excess winter deaths.
Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of Cumbria Community Foundation said: “We’re celebrating 20 years of grant making this year and what better way to see what a difference Cumbrians make by helping fellow Cumbrians. Many of our grant giving funds start with one person’s desire to make the world a better place. I will be ever grateful to Myles for his idea and generous support of the Winter Warmth Fund. We’re hoping to raise at least £150,000 this winter to continue keeping our older people warm and safe.”
Online www.cumbriafoundation.org/winter-warmth-fund or www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/winter-warmth-appeal
Cheque payable to ‘Cumbria Community Foundation’ (write Winter Warmth on the back) and post to Cumbria Community Foundation, Dovenby Hall, Dovenby, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0PN.
Phone call 01900 825760 Monday – Friday between 9am and 5pm.
Photos courtesy: Paul Grindley.