Kind-hearted youngster donates his £1 pocket money to help Norwich church hall devastated by fire

Vivienne Betts with the card and £1 donated by a local child to St Anne Earlham. Photo: Steve Adams Vivienne Betts with the card and £1 donated by a local child to St Anne Earlham. Photo: Steve Adams

Monday, March 10, 2014
10:02 AM

“Here is £1 for your new roof. Don’t worry everything will be OK. Love Harley.”

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Fire fighters at the scene of the fire which devastated the church hall at St Anne Earlham in Colman Road. Picture: Denise BradleyFire fighters at the scene of the fire which devastated the church hall at St Anne Earlham in Colman Road. Picture: Denise Bradley

They are words to warm hearts as a community continues to fight back following a devastating fire.

The moving message was written in a card with £1 taped to it – given to help the church hall of St Anne, Earlham, in its recovery from February’s blaze.

Everyone has been moved by the youngster’s gift, which is displayed on the church’s font.

But his full identity remains something of a mystery, as members of the church community said they recognised the little boy, but did not know his full name or where his family lived.

The Rev Clare Dowding outside the devastated church hall at St Anne, Earlham. Photo: Steve AdamsThe Rev Clare Dowding outside the devastated church hall at St Anne, Earlham. Photo: Steve Adams

Vivienne Betts, a member of the church, said: “He came to the church about a week ago. His mum knocked on the door and said, ‘my little boy has made you a card. He said he was upset when he saw the hole in the roof and he wanted to make you a card’.

“It is just such a lovely example of how people really do care. The community has really come together, and I just thought Harley’s card was very special.”

The Rev Clare Dowding, the vicar of St Anne, Earlham, on Colman Road, added: “It is just such a sweet and generous token. It is really lovely. It’s like the story of the The Widow’s Mite.

“People have sent us wonderful cheques and donations that we are really grateful for, but there is something quite beautiful in the simplicity of Harley’s message and the generosity of a little one to give all his pocket money.”

The interior of the Colman Road church’s hall and most of its contents were destroyed in the blaze which took place on February 17 when the hall was broken into and the fire was started inside.

Two boys aged 13 and 15 have since been arrested, questioned, and released on bail until April 15 while inquiries continue.

Rev Dowding said the strength of support shown to the church by so many since the blaze had been amazing and that she wanted to say a big thank you.

“The most encouraging thing from all of this has been the response from the local community,” she said.

“We have had quite a number of gifts and donations from people, those who live locally and those who have heard about the fire in the paper or by word of mouth.

“There have been numerous offers of toys and equipment for the mother and toddler group and also the craft group.

“We have also had an offer of a new piano. Then there have been some wonderful small gifts which mean just as much to us.”

She said about £1,000 has been received in donations, including a donation from the North Lowestoft United Reform Church, which was previously affected by a fire.

Maxine French, 36, who attended the art and craft group in the hall with her three children, has arranged for donation boxes to be put in local shops and is currently looking for more places for the donations boxes to be displayed.

The art and craft group now meets in the scout hall adjacent to the church hall, and Mrs Betts, who runs the group, said she had been inundated with donations of art and craft materials.

The refurbishment or rebuilding of the church hall may not be completed for a couple of years, and in the meantime the church is looking at some short-term solutions for all the other groups.

Do you know Harley? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

New King James Version - The Widow’s Two Mites

Luke 21:1-4

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.

So He said: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

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