Wokingham Today

Children’s charity launches urgent appeal

- By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokinghamp­aper.co.uk

A CHARITY that helps struggling families by providing quality used baby equipment has been given 12 weeks to find a new home.

First Days, which is based out of Hawkhurst House in Woodley, has been using the premises as a warehouse and office space for nearly four years, but earlier this week discovered that it needs to leave at the end of June.

It says that it was expecting to be moving out in the autumn of 2019, and that trying to find new premises at short notice and at a charity rate would be difficult.

First Days aims to offer practical support for families living in poverty by providing appropriat­e clothes, toiletries, equipment, furniture, toys and books.

It recently received a £25,000 grant from Wokingham United Charities to launch a school uniform project.

Emma Cantrell, the charity’s founder and CEO, said there is now a desperate search to find somewhere suitable for them to store items.

“The news has come as a massive shock for us,” she told The Wokingham Paper.

“The landlord has decided not to renew the lease. The space has been the perfect base, it’s been brilliant for us. We have 48 regular volunteers and it’s been a brilliant location for them.

“We need somewhere that’s approximat­ely 2,000 sq ft to enable those volunteers to come along and sort the donations we receive.

“The clock is ticking and every minute is important.”

Although the charity had been planning for a departure date of next year, the landlord’s 12-week notice period has meant a rethink. Now they have to leave sooner than expected.

“It’s a mammoth task to pack up everything,” Ms Cantrell continued. “It will take two months to find somewhere, so we’ll have to downsize our stock in any way we can. It will be really, really hard.”

The ideal location for the new warehouse would be in a similar place as the volunteers come mostly from Wokingham or East Reading.

“But we’ll consider anything,” Ms Cantrell said.

To help, First Days has launched an emergency moving fund which can be found by logging on to Justgiving.com and searching for First Days Children’s Charity Emergency Moving Fund.

James Fife, director of

LCP Properties which manages Hawkhurst House, told The Wokingham Paper: “We are proud to support charities such as First

Days by offering them free rents throughout their leases and will continue to do so.

“First Days has been based in Hawkhurst House for a number of years, rent free, but as the charity is aware it lease expires at the end of June.

“Hawkhurst House needs to undergo substantia­l refurbishm­ent and with First Days’ lease expiring, together with the other occupiers’ leases coming to an end, we are now in a position to do this. However, if they wish, we will be happy to assist First Days to find alternativ­e accommodat­ion.”

Anyone who can help First Days by offering warehouse and office space is invited to call Ms Cantrell on 07595 035528 or email emma@ firstdays.net

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