BBC weather presenter Paul Mooney has opened Willow Burn Hospice’s newest community shop.
The shop – in Birtley – is the charity’s fifth and half way towards its target of opening 10. “It’s really important for us to have a presence on the High Street,” said Willow Burn’s chief executive Helen Mills. “Not only does it help our income, but it also increases awareness of the work we do.”
Paul Mooney said it was an honour to be invited: “I am sure that the shop is going to become very popular very quickly. And I also know that – come rain or shine – the people of Birtley will continue to do all they can to support a charity which does so much to support their local community.”
The next Willow Burn shop is due to open in March in Lanchester and when all 10 are trading the charity expects they will contribute £500,000 a year towards supporting its existing services which cost £1.5m. Willow Burn receives a third of its budget from the NHS.
Eighteen months ago the Sir Tom Cowie Day Hospice was opened at Willow Burn, which is on the site of the former Maiden Law Hospital in Lanchester.
The day hospice was the first stage of a major transformation programme which, by 2020, will see the building of a new in-patient hospice costing £2.2m and increasing the number of beds from four to six.
The charity was established in 1989 and has treasured the lives of more than 10,000 patients and provided support for their families.
“People have been so generous over the years even when money has been tight,” said Katherine Luke, Willow Burn’s income generation and marketing manager. “Public support and donations are the only way we can continue and improve the care and facilities we provide for our patients and their families when they really need us most.”
As well as Birtley there are Willow Burn community shops in Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Consett and Stanley.