Phe­nom­e­nal growth of tree col­lec­tions is a joy

Macclesfield Express - - EAST CHESHIRE HOSPICE -

A SIM­PLE graph charts the spec­tac­u­lar progress of one of the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing cam­paigns.

More than £678,000 has been do­nated to East Cheshire Hos­pice from the col­lec­tion of Christ­mas trees since 2001.

Last win­ter a record £102,000 was raised from more than 6,800 in­di­vid­ual col­lec­tions – an amaz­ing con­tri­bu­tion un­der­lin­ing a mas­sive com­mu­nity ef­fort from vol­un­teers, spon­sors, the coun­cil and res­i­dents who give gen­er­ously.

Team­work is un­doubt­edly key to the suc­cess of the East Cheshire Hos­pice Christ­mas tree col­lec­tion, which this year won the pres­ti­gious Queen’s Award for Vol­un­tary Ser­vice.

Even hos­pice pres­i­dent David Briggs MBE KStJ, Her Majesty’s LordLieu­tenant of Cheshire, was out in his wellies re­triev­ing trees for re­cy­cling into green waste on a cold and wet Jan­uary weekend.

Or­gan­is­ers are friends Richard Ray­mond, Pete Chap­man, Tony Mid­dle­ton and An­drew Robert­son who re­sist any job ti­tles or call­ing them­selves a com­mit­tee, yet know pre­cisely what is re­quired to mo­bilise a fleet of vans and 260 vol­un­teers each year.

The quar­tet be­gan the count­down to the 2017 col­lec­tion (Satur­day, Jan­uary 14 and Sun­day, Jan­uary 15) some time ago, though all year the sub­ject of Christ­mas trees is prob­a­bly never far from dis­cus­sion dur­ing get-to­geth­ers over a pint at the Park Tav­ern in Macclesfield.

Back in 1999, Pete’s wife Heather had an idea to col­lect trees to help buy a new or­gan at Prest­bury Church where son Andy, then 15, sang in the choir. Each cho­ris­ter was given £10 as an in­cen­tive and the fam­ily trailer which made that ini­tial jour­ney to gather trees alerted them to the scheme’s fundrais­ing po­ten­tial.

Pete re­called: “We used the £10 note to pay for petrol to col­lect trees from the neigh­bours and also raised £600 for two char­i­ties. Ev­ery­one said it was a bril­liant idea and asked if we we’d do it again.

“We’ve been blown away by how suc­cess­ful it’s been over the years. It’s been beyond our wildest dreams and has in­spired around 30 sim­i­lar col­lec­tions around the coun­try.”

Richard Ray­mond, from Macclesfield, was a co-founder. He said: “Pete asked me the sec­ond year if we could bor­row a van from where I worked and the third year said he felt he was on to some­thing. We needed a char­ity that would ap­peal to ev­ery­one in the area so de­cided to sup­port the hos­pice.

“I guess the col­lec­tion has en­joyed that rolling stone of mo­men­tum and there’s now a gen­eral re­al­i­sa­tion among the com­mu­nity, and on so­cial me­dia, that it’s the route of choice for dis­pos­ing of Christ­mas trees in this area. It wouldn’t hap­pen, though, with­out the vol­un­teers who do a fan­tas­tic job.”

The scheme spans a wide area in­clud­ing Macclesfield, Poyn­ton, Chelford, Alder­ley Edge, Dis­ley, Wilm­slow and Knutsford and more re­cently has ex­panded to Con­gle­ton.

Tony’s IT ex­per­tise en­sures vi­tal in­for­ma­tion is cap­tured on a data­base via www.echtrees.org.uk, where peo­ple can now reg­is­ter to have their trees col­lected. Tele­phone book­ings are also ac­cepted.

Tony said: “It’s great fun, es­pe­cially over the col­lec­tion weekend and we do it be­cause it’s for such a good cause. By the Mon­day morn­ing we’re all shat­tered and then there’s still two or three months of fol­low-up work to com­plete.”

An­drew helps with pub­lic­ity and co-or­di­nates vol­un­teers count­ing do­na­tions. He said: “The bulk of the col­lec­tion is on the bank’s counter by first thing Tues­day morn­ing and we’re ex­tremely proud of that. It also saves the hos­pice a lot of ad­min time.

“Ban­ners are an ef­fec­tive way of rais­ing peo­ple’s aware­ness and they’ve been re­fur­bished this year to in­clude the crown from the Queen’s Award. Posters and leaflets de­liv­ered by news­pa­per boys and girls also help.

“It’s a fan­tas­tic team ef­fort and helps peo­ple grow an im­por­tant al­le­giance to­wards the hos­pice.”

The or­gan­is­ing team (from left) – An­drew Robert­son, Pete Chap­man, Tony Mid­dle­ton and Richard Ray­mond

The amount of cash raised for the hos­pice has rock­eted since the first col­lec­tion in 2001

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