Appeal to keep village charity shop open so entertainment can continue

Herald Series: From left, Jenny Freemantle, Sam Riley, Penny Meston, Vanessa Prior and Val Prior outside East Hendred Entertains From left, Jenny Freemantle, Sam Riley, Penny Meston, Vanessa Prior and Val Prior outside East Hendred Entertains

AFTER entertaining her village for six years with Easter egg hunts, scarecrow trails and murder mysteries, Val Prior is stepping down.

Miss Prior has run a once-a-week charity shop in East Hendred with her sister Vanessa since 2008, and used the proceeds to fund activities for children and community groups in the village where she grew up.

But after opening a second charity shop, Changing Lives, in Didcot last year, Miss Prior says she doesn’t have time to run East Hendred Entertains.

She said: “I have got a lot on my plate, and I was running myself ragged trying to do Christmas markets and scarecrow trails, and I can’t do it anymore.

“My house and garden were getting in a mess, and I am waiting for an operation on my hip.”

In six years, opening only on Saturday afternoons, the shop has raised £50,000 to put on fun events, such as a village murder mystery.

Last year, it donated more than £4,000 to local groups, including £500 for the community minibus, £100 to West Hendred Youth Club and £1,000 to the church.

Now, East Hendred Entertains is facing closure unless new volunteers can find ways to raise funds.

Miss Prior said that St Augustine’s Church, which owns the charity shop’s tin-hut home, may want it back.

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She added: “It would be quite a shame – with all the hard work we have put into it, the village are very upset.

“This could be the end of East Hendred Entertains and all the events.”

She said two groups had expressed an interest in taking over, but without a home for the charity shop which funds the group, it may not work.

The charity shop, she said, had also been a “focal point” for the whole village, residents coming to pass the time, gossip and even knit.

Miss Prior said: “I had a happy childhood in East Hendred and I wanted other children to have a happy childhood here as well.

“I just love my village.”

Miss Prior’s sister, Brenda Stallard, who now lives in Worcestershire, said: “She has worked really hard for a lot of things that are close to her heart. She needs a good pat on the back. I admire her determination to carry it on as long as she has. There is a lot of work behind the success.”

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