A charity which is a lifeline for those with learning disabilities has said a huge thank you to readers who have helped raise £35,000 for an appeal in the Epsom Guardian to ensure its survival.
Last spring, this newspaper launched the Shine On appeal for The Sunnybank Trust - based in St Barnabas Church, in Temple Road, Epsom - to raise £75,000 to save the charity which fighting for its life after funding from charitable trusts dried up because of the recession.
Almost immediately the money started coming in and was used to plug the hole in running and staffing costs and specifically, to continue running its weekly social club Kites, a friendship programme and advocacy service.
Then in October, the trust won £288,000 of Lottery funding to support another 150 people on top of the 250 people it already supports over the next five years - conditional on it raising £106,000 from elsewhere. The money, which has so far been used to to recruit a new advocate, a manager for the friendship scheme and to develop a new youth club, cannot be used for its core funding.
So the Shine On has continued to play a vital role in ensuring the charity's future, not just through the money raised but through raising its profile across the area through a series of events and articles, both in paper and online.
These included leaflet drops, Christmas present-wrapping sessions, a 100 lap cycle challenge, the auctioning of a Chagall lithograph which was donated to the trust and the launch of a prize draw club.
Generous donations came in from individuals, local businesses sponsored the charity and local groups got behind the campaign.
Sheila Moran, Sunnybank's advocacy manager, said: "I don’t know what the charity would have done if we hadn’t had the support of the Epsom Guardian’s Shine On appeal."
The brainchild of dyslexia-sufferer Tom Rhind-Tutt MBE - who started the charity in the living room of his home in Sunnybank, on Epsom’s Woodcote Estate - it provides a replacement offering for those with learning disabilities who had been cared for by the Epsom Cluster of mental hospitals, which were disbanded in the 1970s and 80s.
Tom Rhind-Tutt MBE founded the charity in his living room
He said: "Change doesn’t happen overnight. It has taken over 24 years to reach this point. Just imagine what another 24 years can do for so many vulnerable men and women.
"The challenge is ensuring long-term continuity in the services we provide - this is where the local community still can help."
Dorothy Watson, leader of the Kites club, said the trust has "greatly valued" the support of the Epsom Guardian and the community through the Shine On appeal.
She said a number of new volunteers have joined the charity over the last year, after reading about the appeal.
"The economic climate is still very difficult, but our commitment to the people we support combined with the support the community has shown, makes us believe we have a chance to provide sustainable and long-term services to those who most need us," she said.
"Just because the Shine On appeal has ended doesn’t mean support is still not needed.
"People with learning disabilities are still one of the most vulnerable and loneliest groups in our society. They face higher levels of abuse and hate crime.
"The hope and future of this charity rests with the local community."
The Epsom Guardian's senior reporter, Hardeep Matharu, visited The Sunnybank Trust's Kites Club last Thursday evening...
"I'm not quite sure why I volunteered to murder the first song at the Kites Club karaoke night last Thursday.
"But as soon as the Beatles' Yesterday started, and all of the of the club's members joined in with me, I understood again that this is one group where self-consciousness has no place.
"A fun, friendly and lively evening, which had attracted new individuals with learning disabilities wanting to test the water, Sunnybank is a thought-provoking charity with bags of humility and humour.
"It has been a privilege to support it through the Shine On appeal and I look forward to hearing of its continued future successes."
To support the work of The Sunnybank Trust, visit www.sunnybanktrust.org; call 01372 749871; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to: The Sunnybank Trust, St. Barnabas Church, Temple Road, Epsom, Surrey, KT19 8HA.