The Friends of All Hallows Hospital in Ditchingham close to raising �1m

A group raising vital funds for a Waveney Valley hospital is doubling its efforts as its begins its Countdown to a Million campaign.

Founded in 1976, The Friends of All Hallows has raised a total of �960,000 and is keen to hit its target of �1m to continue helping the hospital based at Ditchingham, near Bungay.

Pat Blakeburn, chairman of the committee, said it meant a great deal to the Friends.

'We provide a lot of funding for things that the hospital can't provide themselves and I think the trust relies on us,' she said.

'I just can't believe how much we've raised in all these years.

'We are a group of people with an aim to help All Hallows Healthcare Trust provide people with the extras that perhaps the NHS hospitals aren't in a position to provide through no fault of their own.

'We have a committee of less than 20 people and a large group of Friends who so very kindly contribute funds. Without the kindness of local people the Friends just could not function as well as we do.'

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Originally named The Association of the Friends of All Hallows, the group changed its name to The Friends of All Hallows in 2008.

Harald Pulford, life president and one of the founding members of the group, said: 'It all started when Dr Maidment, who used to work here, got myself, Burton Nursey and Hugh Turner to try and get a group together to raise money. At that precise time the hospital needed the money for house-keeping purposes – they did not have sufficient funds to run the place.

'In 1976, as they got more organised in the hospital, we started raising funds for equipment or as and when the hospital needed it, and that's still what's going on today.'

The group has also helped fund new buildings, extensions, special medical beds, equipment and improvements for both patients and staff.

Mr Pulford sai: 'Whatever the hospital needs we will raise money for it. We've just got to take every opportunity to raise funds. It's just a case of putting on events to do it. It might take a while yet to do that last bit, but we will do it.'

Former bank manager's secretary Sheila Mills has also been part of the Friends since the early days and took on the role of treasurer in 1977.

She said: 'I think the amount of money we've raised is brilliant. My mum spent her last few weeks here in 1973 so I feel like I'm repaying the debt – I felt I owed a great deal to the hospital.'

The group organises fund-raising events throughout the year including an annual family garden party, a Christmas bazaar, an Armistice musical night at the Fisher Theatre in Bungay, monthly raffles, coffee mornings, concerts, fashion shows, talks and many more. Bungay Rotary Club also runs a 100 Club for funds.

Mr Pulford added: 'The Friends have also been fortunate in attracting legacies, both large and small, as well as money in lieu of flowers from bereavements.

'The town reeve of Bungay, currently John Warnes, is also always the president and there have been hundreds of members help out with the Friends over the years.'

The original Community of All Hallows was founded by Lavinia Crosse, daughter of a Norwich surgeon, in 1855. She came to be known as Mother Lavinia and in 1872 set up the hospital in a cottage.

The Sisters from the Community have continued to care for the pastoral needs of the patients and relatives but today the sisters are few in number and the hospital is staffed by a professional lay team. In May 2007 it was announced the Sisters from the Community were to promote an independent charity which would become the registered charity All Hallows Healthcare Trust.

If you would like to become a Friend, make a donation or want more information about All Hallows Healthcare Trust, visit the websirte at www.all-hallows.org.uk or telephone 01986 892728.

donna-louise.bishop@archant.co.uk

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