Shoe shop raises £11,000 for hospice by donating all proceeds of small purchases

Gary Skelding and Lee Blackledge. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Gary Skelding and Lee Blackledge. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

A Hornchurch shop has raised £11,508 for Saint Francis Hospice by encouraging customers to make a donation instead of charging for smaller services.

Lee Blackledge, who runs Tiptoes shoe repair shop in Hornchurch High Street, wanted to support the charity after the hospice in Havering-atte-Bower cared for his dad, Ron, in 1997.

He came up with the idea of giving people the opportunity to put money in the charity’s collection box on the counter rather than asking them to pay for work that required little cost or effort.

“It is always good to raise money for charity but it is even nicer if you have a connection with the charity and our family will always have a personal connection with the hospice,” said Lee, who also owns Home Sweet Home in the High Street.

“The care my dad and family received went beyond nursing and inspired me to raise money for the hospice.

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“My dad was there for a quite a few weeks and during that time the staff got to know our names and would even sit with us for a while.”

The father-of-two says the initiative has worked well and people feel like they are getting something for nothing, even though they are giving money to the hospice.

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“Sometimes if you stick something or put a hole in a belt, it seems silly to charge for it,” he said.

“Most customers put in at least £1 and often give £5 once they know it is going to Saint Francis Hospice.

“The charity is well recognised in this area as it helps a lot of people so customers are happy to support it.”

Lee’s mum Kathleen Blackledge has been volunteering at the hospice for 20 years, helping at fundraising events, hospice social events and in recent years, supporting the charity’s pastoral care team by serving refreshments after the services of remembrance and thanksgivings for relatives of patients who were previously under its care.

Lockdown hit Saint Francis Hospice’s charity shops hard.

Director of retail and trading Michelle Nicholls explained that Covid-19 has completely changed the way people shop, and Saint Francis Hospice charity stores can only limited numbers of people at any one time.

Since opening, Michelle said, “the support for our stores has been overwhelming, but we now need you like never before, we need to find £23,000 every day in voluntary fundraising to survive.”

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