Fire-hit town rallies behind Let’s Fight for Fakenham appeal at public meeting

Scenes following the fire which destroyed the former Aldiss department store building in Fakenham. Picture: Matthew Usher

Scenes following the fire which destroyed the former Aldiss department store building in Fakenham. Picture: Matthew Usher

© Archant Norfolk 2014

A speedily-arranged public meeting was held in Fakenham this evening to discuss the myriad of emerging suggestions on how to help the victims of Sunday’s fire.

About 50 people arrived at the town’s community centre for the forum, which was originally initiated on Facebook by 23-year-old youth worker Megan Rose.

She said “Fakenham is a small town but it has got a strong community, so I thought it would be good to get everyone together to gather their opinions on how we raise money for the EDP appeal.”

Although the donation of clothes and other goods was suggested for those who had lost their homes, the meeting agreed that the best course of action was to direct cash into the EDP’s Let’s Fight for Fakenham appeal, as it would give the Norfolk Community Foundation more flexibility in how it was distributed.

Town mayor Jeremy Punchard said: “One of the lessons we learned from the flood appeal was that there was a large amount of donated goods which could not be used and had to be disposed of. I think monetary donations, rather than physical items would be better.”

Adrian Vertigan, chairman of Kick Start Fakenham, added: “We need to know that people are not making money out of this fraudulently. If we direct all the collections to the EDP campaign, then everyone will know it is going to the right place.”

The meeting discussed possible fundraising events, and was told that the organiser of last year’s successful Rock 4 Jasmine charity concert had shown an interest in dedicating this summer’s event to the fire appeal.

Fakenham Town FC chairman Geoff Saunders said he hoped to arrange an event with a well-known football personality to raise money at Clipbush Park.

Keith Osborn of the Fakenham Area Business Community (FABCOM) said he would talk to businesses in the town about installing collection boxes in their premises.

There was also a suggestion that money could also be raised for the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service in gratitude for the efforts which stopped the fire from spreading.

Dawn Bird, who worked at the now-destroyed Original Factory Shop branch, said the store chain was willing to donate any of its stock items if they were needed, and offered help with the fundraising. The company has already pledged £1,000 to the EDP appeal.

Chris Smith, director of EP Youth, said his charity’s Market Place building had sustained structural damage in the blaze and was deemed unsafe by buildings officers, leaving the organisation temporarily homeless. He said one-off donations and monthly charitable pledges were needed, but stressed that the charity’s volunteer youth projects are still running.

Mr Vertigan said the meeting was an example of the town’s spirit following the fire. He said: “This is about making the community come together. We have all been talking about the fire and the town has been busier than usual for a while because people are coming to look at it. We have had this tragedy, but perhaps now we can do something to keep people coming to the town.”

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