10:00am Monday 31st December 2012
By Tom Jennings
GRIEVING families of fallen service personnel will be offered space to reflect in a calm new setting thanks to a community fundraising effort.
Carterton Town Council and West Oxfordshire District Council have raised £60,000 for the pavilion in Monahan Way, Carterton.
The Royal British Legion (RBL) uses the centre to look after families during repatriation ceremonies but it is small and sparsely decorated.
The funds will create a new room specifically for families to grieve privately and decorate it respectfully with new furniture and pictures.
This also means the main room can be opened to the public, particularly the elderly, so they can shelter in bad weather.
RBL family liaison officer Lynn Little said: “We recognised that we needed to do more for the families.
“They will now have a place where they can do their grieving while they wait for the cortege to come in surroundings that are tranquil and respectful.
“It also frees up the main hall to the elderly people, particularly the Royal British Legion members, who have nowhere to shelter at the moment.
“The response from people since we launched the fundraising in August has been absolutely amazing. I am overwhelmed and proud of the community, who have once again come in and helped the families as much as they can.”
Carterton mayor Adrian Coomber said: “It is really good news, and it is so nice to receive such positive news at Christmas time.
“We have done a good job so far but this will mean we can accommodate the families far better and provide them with much better privacy.”
The funds were donated by the Armed Forces Community Covenant (£40,000), grant body WREN (£15,000) and charity Hopeful Notes (£5,000).
Private donations also contributed to covering the cost and the RAF Benevolent Fund and SSAFA pledged £5,000 each.
The pavilion is owned by the district council and is run by Nexus. It is used by sports groups as well as by the RBL during repatriations.
Richard Langridge, district council cabinet member for communities, said: “I am thrilled that we have managed to obtain these grants.
“It is a superb project that will be of great benefit to local residents of Carterton as well as supporting families at repatriations.
“It is a real success story for Carterton and strengthens the ties between the town and the RAF.”
The family room will be created by converting a storage room, installing new windows and doors and filling it with new furniture and decorations.
Disabled toilets will be moved nearer the pavilion’s entrance, a toilet currently used by referees during sports fixtures will be converted for use by families and catering facilities will be revamped, including installing a shutter into the new family room.
Three storage containers will also be purchased for the site and will be used for storing items for repatriations and for sports teams.
Any extra funds could be used to resurface the pavilion’s car park.
Work will start next month and is expected to be completed by March. The pavilion will be open during the work, including in the event of a repatriation.
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