Helping fund the lifeboat heroes

Hartlepool RNLI fundraiser Beryl Sherry.
Hartlepool RNLI fundraiser Beryl Sherry.

EVERY penny counts in the constant campaign to keep RNLI crews on the waves.

No-one knows that more than Beryl Sherry, the chairman of the Hartlepool RNLI Enterprise Branch.

She leads a dedicated team of members who have been holding summer fairs, attending charity events and raising funds from collection boxes across town and since 1992.

Since then, they have raised £229,166 and the amounts keep getting bigger.

Last year’s sum, boosted by fundraising at The Tall Ships Races event, is set to be a record.

Members are totting up the final sum, to be revealed at the annual general meeting, but it is expected to be around the £30,000 mark.

It is vital support and comes in the same week as new figures were revealed showing that Hartlepool RNLI responded to 67 call-outs last year, mostly to help broken down vessels off the coast.

Mum-of-three Beryl said: “Hartlepool is brilliant for supporting the RNLI, whether it be small donations from schools, old people’s homes and social clubs or big one-off donations. “We also seem to be getting more people giving donations in lieu of flowers when relatives die and that is from people without any connection to the RNLI.

“Every penny counts and any donation, large or small, is very welcome indeed.”

Branch members sell everything from pens, pencils, wallets, diaries, tea towels and calendars at events throughout the year including their annual summer fair at Hartlepool Marina.

It goes towards new equipment and maintaining Hartlepool RNLI’s all weather and inshore lifeboats, based at the lifeboat station in Ferry Road.

Beryl, who lives in the West View area, took up the reigns of chief fundraiser in 1992 after being encouraged by her brother-in-law Eric Reeve, a former coxswain at Hartlepool RNLI.

Beryl, whose husband Frank passed away in 1990, said: “I thought it might have involved helping to run a shop or something like that, but I went to my first meeting at the lifeboat station, which was packed with people, and it all snowballed from there.

“We have an 11-strong team dedicated to raising funds for the RNLI and the team has been quite stable over the years, which has helped.”

The former clothing factory worker, who has five grandchildren, is mum to three grown-up daughters, Angela Crowe, Jacquline Sherry and Lydia Aird.

Last year’s fundraising drive was given a major boost thanks to The Tall Ships Races, which saw almost one million people flock to Hartlepool last August.

Beryl added: “We had a stand at the event and we were all really proud to take part in The Tall Ships Races as it helped raise a lot of money and also awareness of what the RNLI does.”

Every year thousands of pounds is raised through public donations, school fundraisers and contributions from charity nights and local businesses. Beryl also thanked staff at ASDA and Tesco supermarkets for their continued support.

Beryl spoke to Mail2 ahead of RNLI SOS Day, which is the charity’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

This year, SOS Day takes place on Friday, January 28 and people are being urged to show their support for volunteer lifeboat crew and lifeguards who risk their lives to save others at sea.

Events are being held throughout this week.

Branch members have organised a coffee afternoon at the Jacksons Wharf pub, at The Highlight, in Hartlepool Marina, for Saturday, January 29 between noon and 3pm.

Meanwhile, youngsters from St. Hild’s School have held a sponsored walk, while every year children from other schools in town also take part in RNLI SOS Day events.

Beryl said: “The RNLI SOS day is vital as it helps us raise funds and spread the message to children of the hidden dangers of the sea.”

The Enterprise Branch meets on the first Monday of every month at the lifeboat station to discuss fundraising efforts.

Beryl added: “It is like one big family at the lifeboat station and there is a great atmosphere between the branch and crew members.”

Anyone wanting more information about the RNLI and fundraising should contact (01429) 266103.