Ukraine aid is all in a day’s work

By Phil Stoneham   |   Reporter   |
Wednesday 27th April 2022 11:00 am
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Some of the volunteers of the 24-hour litter pick for Ukraine over Easter in Tavistock.
Some of the volunteers of the 24-hour litter pick for Ukraine over Easter in Tavistock. (Steve Hipsey )

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SLEEP-deprived volunteers proved beyond doubt that where there’s muck there’s money when they staged a 24-hour clean up of Tavistock to raise funds for victims of the Ukranian war with Russia.

Teams from environmental group Tidy Tavi scoured the market town for rubbish over the weekend and cleared nearly all of it.

And they rescued a damsel in distress who suffered a potentially serious fall in the centre of town while they were at it. Cash was still rolling in to the group’s online funding page long after the last volunteer shut their eyes in relief, with more than £1,000 bagged so far.

Tidy Tavi organiser Steve Hipsey, shortly before heading for bed himself as the marathon effort ended on Bedford Square, said: ‘People have been fantastic, from everyone who took part to those who have donated to the cause.’

Volunteers were working from the Anchorage Centre near the town’s bus station as a headquarters for the clean-up when a young woman who had fallen into a pothole in neighbouring Garden Lane limped into the building, said Mr Hipsey.

He said Danielle Smith ‘must have been lying in Garden Lane for quite a while as she was freezing cold when we got her inside.

‘Her boyfriend had been searched all over town for her but he turned up and we got them both home safely.’

Miss Smith, who did not suffer any serious injuries, thanked the volunteers for their help and added: ‘I was in shock and could barely walk and without them I wouldn’t have been able to get home safely. I really appreciate everything they did for me and they deserve a huge thank you.’

She added: ‘It’s very dangerous even in the day time and it could have been a lot worse for me. I wouldn’t want anyone to do what I did and come off worse.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hipsey said the volunteers who did the clean up had covered an astonishing 38.3 miles of roads and footpaths in Tavistock.

He said: ‘That’s more than 80 per cent of the town, which I think is a credit to the people who took part.

‘We started on Sunday and finished 24 hours later, with the teams working in shifts, with each shift being three hours long, so there were a lot of sleep-deprived people when we had finished.

‘At the finish, actually, some of them were in bed having done a shift during the night and I must admit I went right out when I got home, but it was absolutely worth not having a lot of sleep.

‘The best thing was that a lot of the town got cleaned up, although I have to say some areas were kept remarkably tidy anyway and all we got is a few sweet papers.

‘In other areas though, we were finding things like a completely flattened wheelbarrow, various bits of garden machinery and enough discarded parts to reassemble a small family car.

‘We also picked up a small collection of coins, which we’ve added to the total, of course. We also encountered some interesting conditions when a mist descended while we were in the higher parts of Tavistock.’

Mr Hipsey said cash raised from the teams’ efforts would be going to the Disasters Emergency Fund, where it was felt the money would do the most good.

He said: ‘The total cash street collection was £373.92. So with the £775 currently on Just Giving, we’re up to £1,148.92, just over our target of £1,000, which is excellent.’

The clean-up was dubbed ‘Operation Bobble Hat’, with the teams consisting of two people wearing bobble hats in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.

The fundraiser ran from 12 noon on Easter Sunday (April 17) and until 12pm on Easter Monday, with the volunteers wearing hats made by Lions club volunteers, who will be litter-picking. Cash donations were accepted by volunteers also wearing the hats on Bedford Square.

Mr Hipsey said the bobble-hats were chosen as a symbol for the operation as so many refugees from Ukraine appeared to be wearing them. Donations can also be made online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/24hrlitterpick.

The effort followed a successful quiz staged by Tidy Tavi at the Stannary Arms with the help of the landlords, which raised £1,600 for Ukraine.

Mr Hipsey thanked all those who gave donations, the volunteers who took part, TASS (Tavistock Area Support Services) for the use of the Anchorage Centre as HQ and coordination centre, and his wife Cathy for manning the HQ for the whole 24 hours of the litter pick.

He also thanked West Devon Borough Council for disposing of the rubbish collected and giving permission to collect on Bedford Square and Tavistock Lions Club for supplying hi-vis trousers and bobble hats in the Ukrainian colours, which were ‘very necessary at 3am’.

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