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George, 90, retires from community work

PUBLISHED: 11:00 30 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:38 01 August 2010

FOR nearly 30 years George Ford's friendly knock on the door was a staple part of village life for the people of Haddiscoe.

But now Mr Ford, who collected for the village hall lottery amongst many other jobs, has decided to call it a day, having just celebrated his 90th birthday.

FOR nearly 30 years George Ford's friendly knock on the door was a staple part of village life for the people of Haddiscoe.

But now Mr Ford, who collected for the village hall lottery amongst many other jobs, has decided to call it a day, having just celebrated his 90th birthday.

His tireless efforts in the village have included collecting for the Poppy Appeal and the Big C, as well as being a committee member of the village hall and its caretaker.

But now he thinks it is time to slow down with his community work. “I told the committee it's about time I stopped running up and down paths, knocking on people's doors,” he said. “I will miss it but there comes a time when you think, maybe I'll just cut this down.”

Mr Ford is best known in the village for running the lottery, which raised funds for the village hall but has now had to close due to his retirement.

It was originally started to raise funds for an extension on the building and once the extension had mostly been paid for, the committee suggested that it might be time to call an end to the lottery. But Mr Ford had other ideas.

“The chairman of the committee was going to move out of the village, and they said with him moving we think we'll call an end to the lottery,” explained Mr Ford. “I said, 'we've got all these people who are willing to join a monthly lottery and there are so many other things that we need doing in the hall. It would be a pity to stop it.' I said I wouldn't mind taking over.”

In the beginning there were a number of collectors, but over the years they dwindled until it was only Mr Ford remaining, knocking on the doors and collecting the money.

“Over the years I managed to keep the membership reasonably stable,” said Mr Ford, who collected for the lottery for 28 years. “About 500 were going into the draw every month. If the people moved off I kept them in the lottery. I even drove out to Halesworth for one member.”

In 2004 Mr Ford's lottery was partly responsible for landing a £123,500 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund for further improvements to the village hall. “The fact that we'd been consistently running a lottery proved that we were putting money into the hall,” he said. “It was considered by a lot of people as one of the factors that helped.”

Mr Ford was also caretaker at the village hall from 1987 until 2002, just before his 82nd birthday, and he is still on the committee.

But the hall was not the only beneficiary of Mr Ford's work in the community.

Mr Ford was a collector for the Poppy Appeal in Haddiscoe, and distributed the cans, trays and poppies to the team of collectors.

The numbers of collectors gradually fell, and in his last 10 years it was just himself and his friend Gordon Howlett, also of Haddiscoe, and of much the same age, who were collecting. They stopped when the Haddiscoe and District Poppy Appeal branch disbanded in 2006.

Mr Ford also collected for the Norfolk and Suffolk Hospital Contributors Association from 1961, based in Norwich, and became an honorary secretary from 1969 until 1995. “I think I impressed them with my enthusiasm for getting new people in,” he said.

In 1985 they asked Mr Ford to be a committee member, however, he was forced to retire in 1997 because he had to travel miles to take part in meetings.

Mr Ford also sold quiz sheets for his fellow villager Shirley Crame for 12 years, who ran the competition in aid of the Big C. He officially stopped doing that in December last year, although he said he might give it a go again if his health was ok.

He has also helped Haddiscoe Church member Diane Harvey distribute quizzes to raise money for the church.

“It's all about knocking on doors,” he said. “I've spent half my life doing it! I like meeting people because people are so nice, and I found that I could mix with so many people. One time when I was out doing the poppies I came back at two in the morning! I'd got talking.”

Despite his retirement from community work, Mr Ford is still running a short mat bowls session at the village hall, which is into its 22nd year. He had to stop for the past three weeks after having his pacemaker replaced, but he hoped to be back in action again as soon as possible.

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