With the country in lockdown and the public participation element of VE Day 75 commemorations cancelled, the RAF Benevolent Fund has taken the party to veterans living in West Sussex.
Regular guests at the Fund’s care and respite centre Princess Marina House have instead received a box of goodies to mark VE Day on Friday, 8 May. Staff and volunteers from the Rustington centre have delivered the care packages to 100 local guests.
Veterans and their partners received essential items such as canned and dried foods, soap, and toilet roll as well as some party extras including party hats, mini flags, napkins, chocolates, and tea. The boxes were provided by ESS Support Services Worldwide (ESS), with the RAF Benevolent Fund adding VE Day party supplies alongside letters written by local Air Cadets.
Among the recipients was 99-year-old Stanley Northeast, a D-Day veteran who started a campaign calling on the public to clap for veterans at 7:45pm on VE Day. Stanley's box was delivered by RAF Benevolent Fund Ambassador Mike Goody, who was injured whilst on patrol with the RAF Regiment in Afghanistan in 2008 when his vehicle struck an IED.
Mike was trapped underneath for three hours and the impact shattered almost every bone in his lower left leg. After two and a half years of painful rehabilitation, Mike took the difficult decision to have his leg amputated below the knee.
Tania Carter, General Manager at Princess Marina House, said: "We had hoped to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day at Princess Marina House, but unfortunately social distancing rules mean this isn’t possible. Instead, we decided to take the celebrations to our guests.
p>"We are incredibly grateful for the generous donations from ESS. Their support helps us continue meeting the needs of vulnerable members of the RAF Family.
"We look forward to welcoming our guests back to Princess Marina House as soon as it is safe to do so."
Princess Marina House provides support for veterans and serving members of the Royal Air Force and their families. As well as respite breaks, Princess Marina House offers a Respite at Home service for guests in the local area, plus a daily Lunch Club.
Mark Webster, ESS Managing Director, added: "We hope the care packages help lift spirits this VE Day. I am incredibly proud ESS has worked in association with the RAF Benevolent Fund on this project. I know the wonderful work they do.
"We're signatories of The Armed Forces Covenant and have a strong affinity with the military, so the charity resonates with us and our teams who work every to support our country's armed forces. We are delighted to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile and beneficial charity."
ESS is a sub-brand of global food service company Compass Group, providing catering and support services to the MoD. Across the UK, Compass employees are playing an invaluable role in the country's battle against coronavirus, ensuring NHS patients and staff are fed, wards are kept clean, and supporting the armed forces by feeding our service personnel.
Last month, the RAF Benevolent Fund made the difficult decision to close Princess Marina House following Government advice on social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since closing, staff have been doing bag drops of vital provisions in the local area for vulnerable members of the RAF Family. They are also making regular check-in calls to Respite at Home users to ensure they're okay and to identify any further needs. The team will also be giving guests who were due to visit Princess Marina House in the coming months a check-in call.
If you know an RAF veteran or their partner who is in need, please contact the RAF Benevolent Fund at rafbf.org.