December 9 2013 Latest news:
Friday, November 9, 2012
A centre set up to support traumatised ex-service personnel could be forced to close within weeks.
Bridge for Heroes has provided more than 2,500 counselling sessions since it opened its base in the centre of King’s Lynn, in June 2011.
But today its founder, who saw active service in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, said it would fold unless more funding could be found.
Tank Regiment veteran Mike Taylor said the centre, a former cafe and shop in South Clough Lane, cost around £2,500 a month to run.
“We’ve got to urgently fund raise but you can’t fund raise and look after troops,” he said. “You can’t ignore people suffering emotional things.”
Bridge for Heroes was opened by the former head of the British Army, General Lord Richard Dannatt and the then Mayor of West Norfolk, Colin Sampson.
Lord Dannatt said a contact centre would be valuable to those left needing emotional or practical support as a consequence of military service.
Ex-personnel of all ages could sit on its leather sofas and chat over a cup of tea.
Volunteers were also trained to spot the signs of post traumatic stress disorder, while counselling sessions were available for those needing support.
Mr Taylor hoped to open similar centres elsewhere in Norfolk, with Norwich earmarked for the first of them. There were also plans to open holiday homes for veterans at Cromer and Hunstanton.
In July, Bridge for Heroes applied for a £300,000 lottery grant and match-funding from the Ministry of Defence.
Today Mr Taylor said that the charity only had enough money to keep the centre going until December 1, after which it would close down unless new funding could be found.
“I’m selling everything I can. I’ve put my life’s savings in, about £30,000, at the beginning,” he said. “The £2,500 pays for the centre’s overhead costs and someone with the minimum wage to be here.”
Brandon Shirley, a seven-year-old boy from Clenchwarton, saved his pocket money and donated £200 to Bridge for Heroes after becoming upset at stories of soldiers being killed on operations.
The centre, near the St James Street multi-storey car park, is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am - 4pm. It also houses a small military museum and a charity shop.