Wendy O’Toole has always known that her calling in life was to help others.
And after spending decades of her life doing just that, she is now on a new mission to transform Heanor charity Salcare into a ‘one-stop shop’ for people in need.
Wendy, 47, met with MPs, council leaders and figureheads last week to discuss more funding for the charity, which she is the manager of.
Salcare, in Ray Street, is a small, local charity serving Amber Valley and Erewash. The charity has become a focal point of the community, and has recently come to the rescue for former employers of Leaderflush, the Langley Mill firm which closed its doors on New Years Eve.
Wendy said: “We are not a big name charity with lots of money and shops in every town, we have been here for over 35 years and we will stay here helping those in need.
“After so long we feel like part of the Heanor community – and we know that is how people feel about us. We’re not a rich high street multiple branch, we are a stand alone charity. And our aim is to become a one-stop shop where people can come and get help and advice, all under one roof.”
The charity sell donated items to raise cash for the charity, or often give them away to those who are homeless or in need. You can buy a number of goods at low prices including furniture, bric-a-brac and white goods. They also offer a low-cost community kitchen providing meals for as little as £1.75, and also, operate a food bank twice weekly and a laundry service for families in need. Free confidential advice on housing, and benefits is also available.
“We are rapidly becoming what I hope will continue to be a place where anyone from any walk of life can come and feel welcome.”
Married mum-of-one Wendy, is passionate about creating a big future for the charity, but she started from humble beginnings and has worked hard to establish herself.
She said: “When I was younger I ran a jacket potato wagon called ‘Just the Jacket’ and worked in Nottingham in the early hours of the morning for three years. When I found out I was pregnant I sold the business. In 1994, I brought a pub in Ripley called The Crown Hotel. I sold this business in 2000 as I wanted to leave the license trade. It was a very difficult decision. I took five years off to study housing law and financial services.
“Then I went to work at a local housing association in Derbyshire, as a housing and debt adviser. I soon realised that I didn’t like evicting people from their home and wanted to prevent them getting evicted, so I left to start charity work.
“I worked for a charity for three years then moved to Salcare to provide housing law and debt advice.
“I found this job very rewarding, I could help the most vulnerable people and help them to sustain their homes and also get them out of debt. I spent eight years helping and representing clients in court. In 2013, the job position came up at Salcare to manage the charity and I grabbed the chance.
“I really enjoy working with the general public it’s so rewarding helping people in need from street homeless to domestic abuse, and people not being able to cope. I couldn’t see me working in any other role.
“My heart goes out to these people. We have a great team at Salcare with the staff and volunteers.
“Going forward in 2016 we also want to run weekly cooking and weight loss classes for anyone suffering with diabetes or obesity. We need the community to support Salcare with furniture donations and clothing, without their generosity we would not be able to survive.”