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Village ‘family’ helps Val serve up shop double quick
VOLUNTEERS who transformed a derelict shop into a community and charity hub have paid tribute to the woman whose charisma made it happen.
Valerie Prior, of East Hendred, has run the Tin Hut charity shop in her village for five years with her sister, but wanted to do more to help people in her community.
She decided to open Changing Lives in December last year and it was only due to the efforts of countless local people, many of whom turned up unexpectedly to lend a hand, that the shop was finished so quickly.
Ms Prior, who now manages the shop, said: “It has been a dream come true, but I couldn’t have done it without their help “There really is a good community feeling in Didcot.”
She donates all the profits from the shop to the Didcot fundraising group the Thong Rangers, which distributes it to local people in need.
One of the shop’s volunteers is Lisa Sammons, 39, from East Hendred.
She helped to transform the unit on The Broadway – which was due to be demolished as part of the Orchard Centre redevelopment – along with her husband Darren, 38, and her 67-year-old father Ken Castle.
She said: “It’s all down to Val. She is an incredible and lovely lady, and sometimes doesn’t get the credit she deserves.
“She is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious.”
When Ms Prior found the shop she said she immediately saw the potential, but knew there was a long way to go.
She put out an appeal for £10,000 to cover the rent and rates and a couple of local farmers, Pete and Fiona Wootton, from Cholsey, loaned her the money.
From the moment she signed the deal on the lease in late June, volunteers like Mr and Mrs Sammons worked night after night after finishing work.
Taylor Wimpey donated tools and some of its employees such as Malcolm Clifford worked after their normal workday.
Domino’s Pizza and McDonald’s donated meals to the workers and Wantage Builders Merchants sent a van to collect more from Faringdon. Chilton Skips sent two skips to the site for free, Oxford Recycling donated wood and Interpart in Didcot donated nails Changing Lives is now open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday.
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