Community Champions

Celebrating charity work and good deeds in the Wiltshire and Swindon business community.

Sleep out raises £4,000 for homeless shelter

Written by Peter Davison.

Excalibur staff who slept out for charityEmployees of Swindon-based IT firm Excalibur who braved near-freezing temperatures in an overnight 'sleep out' have raised £4,000 for a shelter for the homeless.

In its fifth year of supporting Swindon’s homeless, 17 colleagues took part in the event of Friday (January 18), sleeping on cardboard in the company car park.

The £2,000 raised was match-funded by James Phipps, Excalibur's executive chairman, via his Younite charity foundation, to make a total of £4,000 for Swindon Night Shelter.

Swindon Night Shelter's New Haven Centre, which was officially launched on January 2, is designed to bring together various providers under one roof.

It will teach cooking and household management skills, provide basic IT training and show clients how to write CVs, apply for jobs and access the benefits system.

Swindon Night Shelter hopes homeless clients will gain the skills and knowledge they need to navigate finding permanent accommodation and a job.

The Haven Centre will work with Swindon Borough Council to find housing solutions for clients.

Excalibur CEO, Peter Boucher said: "We wanted our night of discomfort to raise awareness of homelessness in Swindon as well as raise money for the Night Shelter, which does such fantastic work to support local homeless people.

"Homelessness is sadly rife across the UK and we, at Excalibur, wanted to do something to help those individuals who have ended up having to sleeping rough.”

Becky Davison from the Swindon Night Shelter, said; “We are very grateful for the money raised by the Excalibur Sleep Out for the new Haven Centre.

"As well as providing temporary shelter to homeless people, we aim to up-skill them and assist them back into the permanent accommodation and the workplace.

"This money will support many people to use the Haven. We have no regular funding and rely entirely on the generosity of donors and businesses like Excalibur.”

Staff have bags of enthusiasm for volunteering

Written by Peter Davison.

Staff from wealth management company Brewin Dolphin spent a day sifting through donations to a popular Swindon charity on Friday.

Stephen Depla, Teresa Norsworthy, Alex Minoudis, Chris Harris, Gareth Evans, Laura Chapman, Hayley Kennedy, and Leila Nairne – who are based at the firm's Marlborough office – sorted donations including clothing, bric-a-brac, toys, electrical items, books, and media into categories at Prospect Hospice’s industrial warehouse units.

The donations will be distributed and re-sold through the charities 17 shops in Swindon and the northeast Wiltshire.

In May, the team spent another of their regular volunteering days weeding and planting bulbs at the bluebell walk in the hospice's memorial gardens.

Prospect Hospice opened in 1980, and is the only dedicated end-of-life care service for people living in Swindon, Marlborough and north east Wiltshire.

Last year the Wroughton facility cared for and supported more than 7,300 people, as patients, carers, and family members.

Business owner raises £1,500 in memory of his father

Written by Peter Davison.

John Williams (centre) at the Chippenham Half MarathonA Chippenham business owner has raised more than £1,500 for the British Heart Foundation in memory of his father.

John Williams, co-founder of John Williams Heating Services, took part in his first half marathon event last month in memory of Steve Williams, who passed away suddenly in December 2017 due to heart failure at the age of 75.

In his memory, John trained to run the town’s half marathon in September – his first ever - to raise £500 for the charity which works tirelessly to improve outcomes for those with heart problems. John smashed his target by raising £1,504.

John said: “I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me and kept me going on the day. I was pleased I ran my first half marathon in just over two hours and 11 minutes and tripled my fund-raising target. Thank you.”

The fitness bug has bitten John who has since gone on to run another half marathon in Salisbury and a 10K.

“Doing this event in memory of my dad has spurred me on to take my fitness seriously and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed running at these events which makes the training worthwhile,” John said.

The Chippenham Half Marathon celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and John’s company, John Williams Heating Services, was one of the main sponsors as it has been for the last three years.

Cyclists complete 160-mile Kenya challenge

Written by Peter Davison.

Lee McGavin and James ForsterTwo quantity surveyors from Swindon-headquartered construction firm Beard have completed a 160-mile office challenge, cycling from the firm’s Guildford Office, to its offices in Oxford, Swindon and Bristol.

The challenge was to raise money for Youth Challenge Oxfordshire (YoCO) and the Nasio Trust.

YoCO is a local charity which supports young people aged 14-21 to develop resilience and confidence so that they can overcome some of the problems they face in their teenage years and early twenties.

Through YoCO, they follow an 18-month guided programme called EXIT7 which helps them overcome seven key challenges which mirror those they face in everyday life such as social media pressure and cyber bullying. They may also volunteer for a life-changing ten-day trip to the Nasio Trust charity in Western Kenya where they help local teachers working with HIV orphans.

Money raised by the Beard cyclists will support young people on the ten-day volunteering trip to help empower communities in Western Kenya, aiming to break the cycle of poverty by providing education, improving health and developing commerce.

Beard quantity surveyors James Forster and Lee McGavin, completed the cycle challenge over two days, cycling through gruelling conditions to reach their goal.

“We’re so proud to be raising money for this amazing group which provides a much-needed support service for young people in the area,” says Beard quantity surveyor, James Forster. “We’re also very grateful for the generosity our local communities have shown in donating money to fund this amazing opportunity for young people to travel to Kenya and support communities in need.

“Since the global HIV epidemic broke out 30 years ago, an estimated 17 million children – 90 percent in sub-Saharan Africa – have lost one or both parents due to AIDS.”

Beard will also sponsor YoCO’s fireworks display on 4 November in Berinsfield which will be a major fundraising event for the charity.

James, Lee and Beard site manager Kieran Tiller, will join YoCO’s young people on their volunteering trip to Kenya in April 2019.

Guy Hannell, Beard regional director, said: “We are all so proud of James and Lee for completing this incredible challenge.

"As part of our commitment to giving back to the community, we are always looking for opportunities to support initiatives which bring real benefits to our local communities.

"I am so pleased that James, Lee and Kieran have led us to support this fantastic charity.”

Recruiters put best feet forward for charity climb

Written by Peter Davison.

Julian and Melody ThompsonRecruitment company directors Julian and Melody Thompson have swapped candidates for climbing this week as they tackle North Africa’s highest mountain to raise money for charity.

The couple, who founded and own Chippenham-based 24-7 Staffing, are scaling Mount Toubkal in Morocco, and sponsorship they raise will go to Cancer Research UK.

At 4,200 meters, Mount Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, and the husband and wife team plan to take four days to climb and descend it.

“Over recent years cancer has sneaked up and taken a hold of some of our friends, family, and colleagues. Everybody knows at least one person who is suffering, or who has died, from this horrendous disease,” said Melody.

“There are so many different types of cancer, that helping to find a cure is as important as ever. We want to show our support for the incredible work these guys do to help save our dear friends from being taken early.”

This isn’t the first challenge Melody and Julian have undertaken. Last year, Melody completed the Three Peaks Challenge, climbing the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours.

In 2016 Julian cycled from Land’s End to John o’ Groats and in 2006 they were both part of a 24-7 Staffing team who completed the Hannibal Challenge, crossing the Alps.

Melody added: “Climbing Mount Toubkal is as much a mental challenge as it is physical, and we are reminded of metaphorical mountains we climb in our personal lives, as well as in our business, on a daily basis.

"Every challenge makes us stronger and today we feel blessed to have our health to tackle this mountain in the same way we tackle our problems, by taking one step at a time and staying focused on the end goal.”

24-7 Staffing, which also has branches in Bristol and Salisbury, places candidates in the driving, healthcare, commercial and industrial sectors.

Sponsorship for the couple’s climb can be made through Just Giving at


Financial advisor raises £4,000 on Paris cycle ride

Written by Peter Davison.

Alice (second from left) and team-mates at the Eiffel TowerFinancial advisor Alice Douglass has raised £4,000 for charity on a London to Paris cycle ride – more than doubling her £1,800 target.

Alice, of Highworth-based Grosvenor Consultancy, covered the 315 miles over four days in August.

She spent 25 hours and 25 minutes in the saddle, and tackled 15,466ft of climbs.

“It was a gruelling ride but an amazing experience. I am overjoyed to have raised so much money for a very worthy cause. Thank you to everyone for their kind donations and support,” she said.

Alice was raising money for children’s cancer charity Neuroblastoma UK. Anyone who wants to donate to her fundraising effort should visit

Accountant paddles solo from Bristol to London to raise money hospice

Written by Peter Davison.

Edd StoneAccountant Edd Stone has just returned from an epic fund-raising feat in memory of his grandmother who was cared for in a West Country hospice.

Ruby Stone, 92, spent the last weeks of her life in the care of the team at St Peter’s Hospice in Keynsham, near Bristol.

Previously fiercely independent Ruby had been driving and living alone until the final weeks of her life when she was battling cancer.

Grandson Edd said: “The care she received was so wonderful, her room was so luxurious and she was in such a lovely place for those final weeks before she passed away peacefully in August this year.

“My Granny was a real tough cookie, Bristolian born and bred. She was a real character. She was such a fighter and very independent. Even in her last weeks, when I visited, all she could talk about was me, my job, when I was going to meet a girl. I told her then I was going to embark on this journey.

“I’ve always loved kayaking and I love the outdoors so I planned a route from Bristol to London and have raised some cash for the hospice. I set myself a target of raising £500 and set off on Friday September 14 after work.”

The 30-year-old who works as a management accountant at Corsham-based company Purple Lime, spent nine days on the river, staying with friends en route or camping wild on the side of the river.

Co-founder of Purple Lime Oli Thomas said: “We all know Edd loves the outdoors and we admire him for committing to such a challenge. We supported him all the way and are very proud of him. We kept in touch along the route with daily updates from him on social media.”

Edd had some adventures – his kayak broke at one point and he found himself stuck trying to get over a weir near Bath.

“I propped up my kayak and used a rope to pull it and myself up – it didn’t work. So I asked a swimmer for help as that area is popular with wild swimmers. What I didn’t realise was this swimmer was naked. I can only imagine what it must have looked like with me, my kayak and a naked man helping me get my craft up the weir,” he said.

“What I loved about this trip was the fact I can switch off from anything other than what is happening in the present moment. Your body simply goes into a more natural cycle. You wake up with the sunrise and sleep with the sunset. All you worry about is where you are going to get food and where you are going to sleep that night.”

Edd reached Woolwich in London late on Saturday September 22 having braved going through the Thames Barrier and travelling around the Capital by river.

“I know areas of London quite well having worked there,” Edd said. “However I couldn’t have worked out how those areas fitted together. Now I can. Seeing London from the river really shows how the city works, how it’s evolved over time and how important the river is to its economy and its life.”

Edd kayaked 192 miles and to date has raised more than £600 in memory of Ruby Stone. Anyone who wishes to donate can do so by visiting

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