A CHARITY champion is urging shoppers help raise funds for a Macclesfield hospice by dropping in to see Santa at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
Midge Barber was crowned the town’s Volunteer of the Year by local radio company Silk FM for her tireless efforts promoting and raising funds for the East Cheshire Hospice.
The 70-year-old hospice ambassador is hoping that this year’s grotto, the fourth hosted at the Grosvenor Centre, will be even more successful than last year’s winter wonderland when more than 260 youngsters visited, raising £1,000 for the charity.
The theme for the grotto this time is an enchanted forest and the theatrical setting will have visitors young and old spellbound as almost 30 twinkling trees create a magical welcome.
The grotto is open every weekend from now until December 20, and it costs £5 per child to visit Father Christmas and receive a gift, with additional siblings costing just £4.
Midge, who lives off Crompton Road, said: “Every penny raised for the hospice is vital. It costs £7,500 a day to keep the hospice open and the government provides just 19 per cent of the running costs.
“The rest comes down to fundraising and our volunteers, of whom there are about 600. We rely heavily on those people – someone once worked out that if we didn’t have any volunteers we’d be able to stay open for about three months before having to close.”
The cash raised by the Grosvenor Centre grotto will go towards funding the hospice in Millbank Drive, which provides both 24 hour and day care to patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families.
“It’s like a big extended family,” Midge said. “It’s so close knit and everyone does such an amazing job. It becomes like a second home for our patients and their loved ones.
“It seems these days that everybody knows somebody who has been helped by the hospice – it touches so many and that’s why people seem to be so supportive of us.”
Samantha Hatton is the woman behind the grotto, something she decided to do for the town four years ago and has been doing ever since.
She said: “It gets bigger every year and I’m spending more and more time on it. Myself and my friend, Sue Pine, who has experience in set design and helps create the scene, must do about 200 hours each between building, decorating and running the grotto.
“But we get fantastic support from people and businesses in the town and it looks brilliant. It’s amazing really.”
Grosvenor Centre manager Ed Kennedy said: “We are very happy to again provide a base for Sam and her team to build this wonderful Santa’s Grotto.
“They have once more created a wonderful set and I am sure that children will find it magical. As a dad, I know that visiting Santa at Christmas is an important event for children, and is a memory that they will treasure for years.
“It’s great that the grotto is also helping to raise funds for the hospice so it can continue do carry out its excellent work.”
Micky Jones from PR Jones jewellers provides the funds for the presents handed to youngsters by Santa, while Cheshire Curtains once again donated all the material for the elaborately painted backdrops. Local businessman Faris Mousa donated the money for Sam to buy 28 fibre optic trees, which twinkle with a frosty glow.
Sam added: “The Grosvenor Centre give us amazing support. They always let us use a unit here for the few weeks that it’s on and Ed, Caroline and their team help us whilst setting up and running the grotto”.
“A lot of our volunteers come from The Rotary Club of Macclesfield Castle who have helped us with everything from wrapping presents to building the grotto and Councillors from Macclesfield Town Council have given their time to help man the reception desk”.
“Last year we managed to raise £1,000 and we hope to beat that this year as we’ve done a bit more again this time.”
Midge was inspired to support the East Cheshire Hospice after the death of her mother, a lifelong contributor to the cause.
But her charitable efforts don’t end there as she also works for Talking Newspapers and organised a coffee morning for East Cheshire Hospice herself that raised over £1,000.
“I also did an appeal through a website for Macclesfield’s ex-pat community and that raised £885 in contributions,” Midge explained.
“So last year Silk FM made me their Volunteer of the Year and I was treated to a nice dinner and presented with a trophy.”
Macclesfield’s Grosvenor Centre, open daily, is home to 36 stores from fashion, health and beauty to services and food and drink.
More details on the Shop for School scheme at www.grosvenorshopping.co.uk