Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Weaving her way along country roads on a red Honda 90 motorcycle, fundraising stalwart Dot Kent is a familiar face in her village.
Taking sausage rolls to sick neighbours, supplies to the village hall and visiting friends, she has become known as ‘the woman on the bike’.
And at the age of 80 and after decades of selfless charity work she is pretty hard to miss.
Mrs Kent has been at the centre of life in Seething, near Loddon, since she moved there at the tender age of 18 with a desire for independence.
For the past 40 years she has worked tirelessly in aid of the village and although she hasn’t kept count of her efforts the figure must be in the thousands.
She has helped to organise various sales, fetes, bingo nights and children’s parties, all of which have contributed towards many new items for Seething and Mundham Village Hall, including a new boiler and fridge.
As caretaker and bookings officer, her hard work was acknowledged this week with her 80th birthday party organised by the art club who use it on a Monday morning.
The third eldest of 14 children, Mrs Kent saw a job advertised in service and made the move from north Norfolk.
She went on to meet her late husband Christopher and quickly became ensconced in life there.
She said: “I came out of a big family and my mother made us help other people and you would never be allowed to take anything back. That is the way I have always been. I’ve never done something and expected to get anything out of it.
“When I came to Seething I couldn’t get anywhere and we couldn’t afford a car so I used to ride to Norwich every day on my bike when I worked up there.
“I’ve been riding for about 50 years and I use my bike for fetching and carrying everything for different functions. I’m known in the village as the woman on the bike, it’s what keeps me young.”
The village field was left to her husband’s family by his grandmother and after the hall was built in 1973, Mrs Kent decided to hold a jumble sale to collect a bit of cash to buy some crockery.
Her fundraising snowballed and she is still responsible today for welcoming groups to the building, with other villagers believing she is the reason that they keep coming back.
Ken Speller, secretary of the village hall committee said: “Dot was the first person that visited us after we moved to the village. In our first week she made us feel so welcome and we quickly got to know and respect her for all the good work she continues to do.”
The great-grandmother is also an avid supporter of Seething Airfield, helping to cater for the reunions of the bomber crews that served there and selling refreshments during open days at Seething Air Museum.
Seething Airfield was home to the 448th bomb group, a part of the 2nd air division of the 8th American Air Force.
Twice during the 1980s she recalled serving a turkey dinner to 480 airmen when the reunion was moved to the village hall, while she gave them rides around the field on her motorbike.
After a bout of ill health Mrs Kent has been told to take things easier, but she’s determined not to stop fundraising completely.
“I helped old people with covering furniture and decorating and if anyone was ill I would make them something and take it round. They all knew where I was if they wanted anything.
“I couldn’t do all this on my own, I do have help from lots of people, if you help people, they help you. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t enjoy it because, believe me, it’s hard work. Before I pack up I really want to buy some new crockery for the hall.”
Her birthday today will be spent in typically selfless style, catering for a friend’s funeral wake.