A LIFE-SAVING charity has opened its first fundraising office in Cumbria today (May 11).
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) has operated the Pride of Cumbria air ambulance from its base at Langwathby since 2004, but this is the first time it has had a staffed office in the county.
The charity officially opened its Penrith town centre premises with a ribbon-cutting.
GNAAS staff and local volunteers who have come forward to help with the day-to-day running of the office celebrated their new base, which will serve as a hub for the charity’s community fundraising effort.
Stacy Hucker, GNAAS’ public liaison manager in Cumbria, said: “The Pride of Cumbria costs up to £2m a year to run and we rely on donations from the public to survive. This small fundraising base in the heart of the area we serve will allow us to work towards safeguarding the future of the air ambulance.”
Local businesses helped to refurbish the Sandgate office after an appeal by GNAAS.
Mrs Hucker said: “We want to thank Penrith-based businesses Dream Doors, Arches Carpets, AST signs, Co-operative and Morrisons, as well as Carlisle-based businesses Monitor Systems, Tesco and Asda, who have all offered materials or labour free of charge.”
Following an earlier appeal, around a dozen volunteers signed up to help staff the office, but the charity is still looking for more to come forward. Duties will include general administration work, greeting visitors and selling merchandise.
Mrs Hucker said: “Thanks to all those who have come forward so far, we didn’t think we would get such a response. There is still a lot of work to be done though, so the more the merrier.”
One of the volunteers who will be working from the office is retired joiner and lecturer Rod Bell, who was airlifted in 2009 after suffering a heart attack.
The 70-year-old from Carlisle said: “The air ambulance did a great job with me and ever since then I’ve been helping in any way I can.
“It’s been quite difficult with the charity based mainly in the North-East but now they have this Cumbrian office it’s much easier for us to get involved. I’ll be here most Thursdays, all day, doing my bit.”
The office is located opposite the bus station at Sandgate House, 33 Sandgate, Penrith, CA11 7TJ.
For more information on GNAAS, visit gnaas.com or call 01768-899150.
Picture shows, back row (left-right): Volunteer Kathleen Brierley, GNAAS mascot Miles the Bear (worn by volunteer Adrian Sweeney), GNAAS’ director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe, GNAAS’ public liaison manager for Cumbria Stacy Hucker, GNAAS’ head of fundraising Mandy Drake, GNAAS’ assistant public liaison officer for Cumbria Heather Stamper, volunteer Rod Bell. Front row (left-right): Volunteers Bruce Evans, Thelma Miles, Joyce Beattie, Ruth Griffiths, Oliver Jones.