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Wildlife charity “humbled” by college’s fundraising

Wildlife charity “humbled” by college’s fundraising

The founder of a wildlife charity hit by a devastating fire has spoken of her gratitude after it received a bumper cash boost from West Nottinghamshire College.

Cheryl Martins, who runs Mansfield Wildlife Rescue, which takes in injured and orphaned animals in the local community and from surrounding counties, lost everything when her Mansfield Woodhouse home was badly damaged in a blaze which swept through the property in May this year.

Among the casualties were five of her beloved pets, including a cat, a dog and three birds.  Cheryl also lost most of her possessions.

It came as she was preparing for the rescue centre’s relocation to larger premises in Pleasley Vale, having run it from her garden for over 18 years to care for a range of animals such as hedgehogs, foxes, badgers, ducks, owls, parrots and squirrels.

Now, Cheryl says she is “truly humbled” after receiving £573 from the college following a fundraising campaign by kind-hearted students and staff, who were touched by her plight.

The animal care department raised £345, while the learning resource centres at the Derby Road and Chesterfield Road campuses contributed £228, after coming up with novel ways to get the cash rolling in.

Animal care students had already begun raising funds for the charity, which covers Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire, after being inspired by Cheryl’s visit to the college earlier this year when she gave a talk about her work and plans to move the rescue centre to a former plant nursery in Common Lane.

Raffles, tombolas, cake sales, hair-braiding, sales of cat and dog treats, guessing the number of sweets in a jar and a sponsored marathon made-up just some of the money-spinning activities.

But they stepped-up their efforts after hearing about the tragedy – with student Reanna Davies raising £100 alone through her own sponsored walk, covering more than 100 miles throughout May.

Keen to show their support, staff in the learning resource centres placed collection tins on its enquiry desks, and all fines paid for the late return of books and resources also went towards the campaign.

Cheryl said:

“I'm absolutely ecstatic. It’s fantastic the college has done this for us. This is going to make a huge difference. There are things we can now get done that we wouldn't have been able to, ready for the grand opening. I'm truly humbled by the support we've had.”

Cheryl’s search to find, fund and prepare a new venue for the rescue centre has taken many years. She took over the disused former plant nursery in April after signing a 10-year lease. Work to transform the site continues to gather pace, ahead of the planned opening of its on-site café this August bank holiday weekend.

Improvements underway include groundwork, renovating the visitor car park, planting flowers and shrubs, re-roofing animal pens and building enclosures – all carried out by friends, family, trustees and a loyal band of volunteers.

Longer-term plans for the site, set within five acres of woodland, include creating a small soft play area for children, a vegetable patch, woodland walk with wheelchair access, and a pond. The surrounding countryside will be used to release animals back into the wild. Having larger premises means the centre will be able to look after larger animals.

Although a large part of the enclosed premises will be dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of sick and injured animals, visitors will be able to take a close look at other creatures, housed in the visitors’ area.

There are also plans to widen the charity’s engagement with schools, colleges and community organisations, provide volunteering programmes, and build on its links with the college by providing students with work experience opportunities.

“We'd love to have an ongoing relationship with the college and help a lot of students by giving them hands-on experience of working with the types of animals they wouldn't normally see in the college setting,” said Cheryl.

“There’s also landscaping work to be done, and we will have the café too – so I'm sure we can accommodate quite a few students from West Notts College.”

Cheryl admitted the fire had taken a huge toll emotionally and made her question whether she could continue to run the self-funded rescue centre.

“The fire was absolutely devastating, in particular losing some of my own family pets that I'd had for years,” she said.

“I lost two macaws, including one that was 25-years-old who I’d had since she was a youngster, a seven-year-old love bird that I’d hand-reared, my 14-year-old dog whose sister is now pining for, and my eight-month-old kitten that we'd not had very long.

“I honestly thought about throwing in the towel, because I couldn't see us moving on from that. But the fact the other animals still needed me kept me going and helped me get through it. Otherwise they wouldn't have stood a chance. There is nowhere else locally that does this, so if I hadn’t carried on there'd have been nowhere for them to go.”

Cheryl is now looking forward to a bright future – and the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition.

“I've had this dream for nearly 30 years – and I never, ever thought I would get to this stage,” she said.

“This is testament to everybody who has supported me. Without some of the trustees who got on board when we became a charity, I don't think we'd have got this far. I’m very grateful.”

Animal care teacher Stacey Allcock, who helped with the fundraising, said:

“After Cheryl gave a talk to our groups about what she was setting up at the new site, we decided it'd be good to give her a bit of a boost financially.

“As soon as we heard the awful news about the fire, we thought ‘what else can we do to help?’. The students worked really hard to raise as much money as they could and we’re really proud of them. We’re looking forward to working more closely with the rescue centre and giving students practical experience within an animal sanctuary environment. It may inspire future students as well.”

Claire Barke, a learning resources adviser, said:

“The team came up with the idea of having a month at the end of term when any fines paid for returning books late would go to a good cause.

“We knew we wanted to support a local charity and that the animal care team was supporting Mansfield Wildlife Rescue. With the fire and everything that happened, it was the clear choice. Hopefully students who contributed will feel really good about it. The rescue centre will be a fantastic community resource, and our students can benefit from it too, so it's very rewarding to see the money going to good use.”

 


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