Joan, 91, bows out of fundraising role

November 29 2018
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A FISHPONDS woman who has helped raise tens of thousands of pounds for a children's charity is standing down from her fundraising role after 56 years.

Kindhearted Joan Seville, 91, was appointed representative for the Children's Society at St John's Church in Lodge Causeway back in June 1962.

Her role involves organising and running events to raise money for the charity, which supports vulnerable children in England and Wales who face poverty, abuse and neglect.

Joan's main fundraiser is the annual Christingle service, an event held in thousands of churches, cathedrals, schools and communities to support the Children's Society.

Joan said: "Years ago all the churches in the Bristol diocese got together to hold the Bristol Bazaar to raise money for the Children's Society.

"I got interested in the charity after attending a meeting at Bristol Cathedral. The vicar at St John's at the time asked me if I would consider taking on the job as the parish representative for the charity because the lady who was doing it at the time was retiring.

"I said yes and became more and more involved, becoming the Bazaar secretary. I did that role for 25 years. When I gave it up, no one else wanted to do it so the Bazaar gradually petered out and stopped in the mid 1980s.

"My husband totalled up how much was raised through the Bazaars and it came to £57,000! I didn't make all that, of course, but I helped make it by getting people to come in and run their stalls. 

"I kept on with the work for the Children's Society at St John's and our main fundraising event was, and still is, the annual Christingle service."

Christingle is the name given to oranges, decorated with red tape, sweets or fruits and a candle which form the centre of a religious service. The orange represents the world, the candle the light of Christ and the red ribbon the blood and love of Christ. The sweets and fruits, placed on four sticks around the orange, symbolise the fruits of the Earth from the four corners of the world.

Joan, who has been attending St John's for 61 years, said the Christingle involves local children, as well as the usual church congregation, who collect money from their family and friends.

She said: "After the service the children can eat the orange, usually the sweets are gone before they get out of the door! They can also use it as a centrepiece for the table at Christmas. 

"Christingle is vital to get the money in. We usually make around £400 and the money goes to good use."

Joan also boosts funds further with coffee mornings and by giving out small plastic boxes so people can put in spare change and save for the charity all year.

"There's so many charities about today so it gets harder to raise money. Every one of them does good work but people can't support them all. 

"A few years ago, I was very ill and my husband Derek said I had to give up some of the things I did. But I would not give up raising money for the Children's Society! It's a charity that's always been part of our married lives. We were both members and would travel up to their big meetings in London."

Joan was born in St Paul's but moved to Greenbank during the war before settling in Fishponds in 1953 when she married.

"Adolf Hitler chucked us out of St Paul's when he dropped a bomb on our house in 1940," Joan said. Joan and her husband both worked at paper, printing and packaging company ES & A Robinson in Filwood Road, Fishponds which later became DRG.

Sadly Derek passed away last December. The couple have a son and daughter, a grandson and two great grandchildren.

Joan's last Christingle event as representative for the Children's Society took place on Sunday November 25 but she will continue to regularly attend St John's.

"I feel very sad to be retiring but I'm 91 now so I think it's about time I hung up my boots!

"I will still attend church - after all, the Almighty doesn't retire!"