In 1965 a small group of friends, led by Peggy Percival, the wife of the City Architect at that time, negotiated the use of part of one of the Norwich city centre shops in order to sell Christmas Cards in support of their favourite charities. That first year about £2000 was raised and our organisation was born. Since then this group of friends and helpers has enlarged to almost a hundred but the aim is still the same - to raise money for our chosen charities.
We lead an extremely precarious existence in that, as we function for less than three months each year, we have no permanent residence and each season begins with the search for accommodation. There are many tales about the funny little shops from which we have sold our cards - one on Timberhill had no loo and nowhere to make the essential cup of coffee, so a deal was struck with the local pub - we used their loo, buying our coffees there in exchange. Another, also on Timberhill, had a kettle which was situated directly under the fire alarm - with inevitable results.
We sell Christmas Cards, calendars, diaries, gift wrap, candles and similar, on behalf of twenty two charities. Some are International, like Save the Children, some are national, such as Age UK while others are local, like the Norwich Foodbank and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
All our charities are people-related. It has always been our aim to give every penny taken back to these charities which we are able to do by keeping our overheads as low as possible. Not renting a phone line means that we cannot process credit cards so we deal in old fashioned cash and cheques instead; all our team members are volunteers meaning we employ no salaried staff; and team members donate gifts to make a Christmas Hamper which is raffled to raise enough money to pay the running costs.
Over the years the operation of the group has depended on committed charity representatives, shop supervisors and staff and a small committee. The fun and friendship generated lasts throughout the year and we are so proud that our efforts have to date raised a figure fast approaching £1,500,000 - yes, almost one and a half million pounds!