Debt of thanks owed to Norwich credit union employee

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters, Freda Sheehy and West Norwich Credit Union president Ian Le

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters, Freda Sheehy and West Norwich Credit Union president Ian Leather - Credit: Archant

She's helped hundreds solve their financial problems, and now a community will forever be in her debt.

About 30 people were at the West Norwich Credit Union branch in Earlham West to pay tribute to Freda Sheehy, 63, as she retired after 30 years of volunteering and serving the community.

Mrs Sheehy, who was made an MBE for her community work in 2013, said she was delighted so many people were there for her retirement party.

She said: 'It's absolutely lovely so many of my friends and family are here. Without them I wouldn't have an MBE – it belongs to all of us.'

Mrs Sheehy has volunteered for everything from play groups to junior discos, an anti-bullying campaign and seniors' lunch clubs. She gained a reputation as 'the woman who only has Thursdays off' because of her commitment to volunteering.

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But it has been through her work helping people get out of debt that many people know her best.

In 1992 she helped set up the Earlham Credit Union, which later became West Norwich Credit Union, and helped form the Norwich Money Advice and Budgeting Service eight years ago.

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Mrs Sheehy, who lives in Bixley Close and has three children and five grandchildren, said: 'I've always enjoyed helping people.

'We often say, the first meeting is tea and tissues, and the second is tea and biscuits.

'Sometimes all it takes is a call to the council, and then we can help get them on the road to recovery.'

At the party, Mrs Sheehy was given a bouquet and cut a cake.

Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters paid tribute to Mrs Sheehy, saying: 'Anyone who had an idea or thought that could benefit the community would seek out Freda as they knew that she could put legs on a project through her contacts and experience. We owe Freda a tremendous amount, in the best possible way, of debt.'

Mrs Sheehy has seen West Norwich Credit Union grow from a collection point in a back room and double-entry bookkeeping, to an organisation worth £500,000 which has granted over £2m in small loans.

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