Havering charity making difference to veterans’ lives
- Credit: Archant
With a Second World War veteran father and other loved ones having served, the Armed Forces have always been close to Denise Speight’s heart.
Three years ago, she took the plunge and formed Veterans of War, which aims to improve the quality of life for ex-servicemen.
And in the time since, it has raised thousands of pounds through fundraisers and its shop in the Quadrant Arcade, Market Place, Romford.
Denise, who lives in Hornchurch, said: “We were a group of friends working for charities, myself a military charity, and we saw a gap in the market for Armed Forces and thought we could fill it.
“A lot of charities weren’t doing exactly what we thought they could do with the money.
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“They were wasting it on admin costs – when they got too big they became a brand and not a cause. The money should be going into the people.”
On Friday, the charity held a fundraiser at the RUSS Club, in Mawney Road, raising £1,500.
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Denise said: “If someone needs help we do events in their area, so the community is giving back to the person and they feel part of it.”
The founder’s affinity with the Forces has been partly inspired by people such as her father Albert, who served in the RAF in India during the Second World War.
She said: “In my age group I think everybody is aware of the Forces. Most of our parents were connected, or our grandparents. We have grown up with it.”
The charity, which Denise hopes will encourage communities to hold their own fundraising events, looks set to have a bright future.
She said: “The shop is like a little community. It is incredibly rewarding and nice to know so many people are supporting us.
“We are a team and that’s what the Armed Forces is all about.”
One group Veterans of War supports is True Heroes Racing.
Founded by Phil Spencer, who served in the Royal Navy as a Warrant Officer, it gives injured ex-servicemen the opportunity to compete in motorcycle competitions.
The first rider was Murray Hambro, who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. His life was saved by comrade Nick Dinsdale, who is best friends with the son of one of Denise’s close friends.
After Murray met Phil at an event and shared his love of motorcycling, True Heroes was born.
Team manager Phil, 41, who lives in Somerset, said: “These guys have been in a dark place and had their military careers wrenched away from them.
“They are not the kind of people to sit around and this gives them something to focus on and be involved in. The team has a military camaraderie.”
True Heroes was nominated for one of The Sun Military Awards last year and Murray won the 2015 Sporting Endeavour Award at the Soldiering On Awards, after being nominated by Veterans of War.
Phil said: “When we started we didn’t realise how supportive the public were going to be.”
Denise called the team “inspirational”.