Charity hero bakes one hundred cakes in his home kitchen and raises £100,000
PUBLISHED: 06:30 31 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:07 31 July 2020
On June 27, 2009, that year’s Armed Forces Day, David and Patricia Brown set up a stall in their front garden in Burgh St Peter, a village in south Norfolk.
They were selling homemade cakes and chutney to raise money for Help for Heroes - a charity supporting military veterans with illnesses and injuries - and at the end of the day had made £346.
The sale was “supposed to be a one-off” - but after good-natured complaints from villagers that they “couldn’t get the cakes and chutney whenever they wanted”, the couple turned it into an annual and then an almost monthly event, baking up to a hundred cakes in their kitchen and selling them at a stall in the carpark outside Co-op in Beccles.
Almost 11 years later, in February this year, Mr Brown announced their efforts had surpassed anything they could have imagined, having now raised £100,000 for the charity.
In the meantime, Patricia had died.
That was in 2016 and Mr Brown wondered whether he should continue or give up the fundraising, but his daughter, Sally Williams, asked him to think about what her mother would say, and he decided to push on.
“I knew what she would say if I was carrying on,” Mr Brown says. “She always said, ‘It’s only a small thing I do’. When we got to £100,000 she would have been thrilled to pieces that we raised all this money.”
Mr Brown is a warm-voiced and self-effacing man of 77 who is no stranger to baking.
In the 1960s he found work as ship’s baker in the galleys of Esso tankers transporting oil around the world, from the Persian Gulf to the Far East and South America.
He finished that work in 1974 and moved shoreside, working on the rigs in the North Sea before a back injury left him unable to work for five years.
He then worked for Waveney District Council for 21 years before retiring in 2013 at the age of 71.
The idea for the charity cake sale was his wife’s when in 2009 their daughter, an army veteran, returned home from a tour in Afghanistan and they learned about Armed Forces Day.
“My late wife said she’d have a stall in the front garden. I remember I came home one evening and got presented with recipes for chutney,” Mr Brown said.
“Sadly she passed away in 2016 so she didn’t get to see us reach £50,000. From then on I’ve been doing stalls at shows, raising money all the time.
“It was something my wife avidly believed in, especially when we went to a military parade for my daughter, and met some limbless people, it made my wife realise she had to keep going, and keep raising money for them.”
Mr Brown says their daughter Sally, like many teenagers, had drifted around for a while, moving first to Lowestoft and then Norwich, before coming home one evening in 1994 and throwing a 10p piece on the table, telling her parents, “I’ve taken the king’s shilling” - an old colloquialism meaning to join the army.
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“We were delighted, we were thrilled for her,” Mr Brown says.
Over the following 24 years Ms Williams served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kenya.
Mr Brown sets up his stall every month or two in Beccles and also sells cakes, sausage rolls and pastries at fairs around the region.
“I usually bake from 70 to 100 cakes every time I do a stall. You get into a routine, you know exactly what you’re doing, it just becomes second nature.
“The reception we’ve got from Help for Heroes themselves has kept me going,” he adds. “Plus the fact because it was the way my wife pushed, pushed and pushed and she was so delighted about the money we’d send to them.”
Although Mr Brown is the face of the fundraising efforts, he mentions a number of local businesses which have helped along the way including Binks, a garage in Beccles who give him a free MOT every year, Wrights, an Essex-based Miller which gives him flour for half-price, and DB Signs in Pakefield who have produced all his signage free of charge.
During lockdown Mr Brown has not stopped baking, sending two trays of cakes every week to staff at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.
He is “glad” he kept going, adding that it has given him a “wonderful outlook”.
“And I’m going to keep going,” he says.
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