Photo gallery: Stalham, population 3,000, raises £100K in under two years at charity shop for its Poppy Centre

Stalham Poppy Centre shop volunteers celebrate after reaching £100,000.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Stalham Poppy Centre shop volunteers celebrate after reaching £100,000.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A small north Norfolk community has raised a staggering £100,000, ensuring that a long-cherished project will open in this centenary year of the First World War.

In just 19 months, the Poppy Centre shop in Stalham High Street has cleared a £100,000 profit, purely through the sale of goods donated by local people.

Every penny of the cash has been poured into the Poppy Centre, named because the first project meeting was held on Armistice Day 10 years ago, and because it is being built on Stalham Recreation Ground, a memorial to the town's war dead.

After a decade of slog and setbacks, trustee Christina Costello said the end was finally in sight.

'Without a shadow of a doubt we will open, fittingly, this year and it's going to be a fantastic facility for Stalham,' said Mrs Costello, whose husband Colin is chairman of the trust and is project-managing the building work.

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The two-storey centre's main users will be young organisations in Stalham, including Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, and the youth football club. The gym club will also be based in the building, and the hope is that adults dropping children at activities will stay for a gym session.

At present the groups meet in various locations in Stalham and surrounding parishes. The centre, which has so far cost about £460,000, will provide them with state-of-the-art facilities, changing rooms and storage space.

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Mrs Costello said the centre had benefited from a number of grants over the years, the largest of which was £100,000 from the Norfolk County Council Construction Fund in 2012.

'The fact that we have now matched that amount ourselves through the shop is a huge achievement,' she added.

'I think grant organisations like to see that we are not just holding out our hands and asking for money, we're prepared to work to raise it ourselves.'

She praised the army of volunteers, led by shop manager Doreen Wright, who had made the shop such a success.

'People know that no-one is paid to work there and they also like supporting a local cause.

'We're always telling customers how much we have raised too, and I think that helps. Cars are rolling up all the time with items for the shop to sell.'

But, as the project heads for the finish line, two more obstacles have been put in its way. The trust needs to find a further £60,000 before May to ensure it gets a £20,000 grant from the Sheringham Shoal Community Fund to cover the cost of the centre's £80,000 ground-source heating.

And there are now concerns that it will also need to find cash to boost the centre's electrical capacity to cope with a heat-recovery system and lift which have had to be installed to comply with legislation introduced since the project was launched.

But Mrs Costello was upbeat about the hurdles. She said: 'We will overcome them. We always do. There will be ways round it.'

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