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Andrew’s legacy still drives us on
WHEN the Knightsbridge family first decided to make a difference to adults with learning disabilities 23 years ago, they never expected to see their vision become such a huge success.
Back in 1990, the parents and aunt of Andrew Knightsbridge, then 25, realised there was a lack of services and facilities in the area to help him live independently.
Andrew contracted meningitis when he was just a few months old and the devastating illness left him learning disabled because of the damaged caused to his brain.
The family, from Billericay, teamed up with other families affected by behavioural difficulties to launch the Anvil Trust.
The charity campaigned and fundraised tirelessly, with the help of local churches, to get together enough money to set up a fully-equipped home where adults with special needs could live away from their parents while getting the support they need from 24-hour carers.
After three long years, in June 1993, seven-bedroom Anvil House opened in Perry Street, Billericay. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength.
Christine Pugh, Andrew’s aunt, said: “Looking around Billericay, we realised there really wasn't a home which was suitable for Andrew. He needed specialist care. We started having meetings with interested people and a group of eight of us got together.
“We couldn’t choose who went in to Anvil House, it had to be down to social services, but Andrew was lucky enough to be one of the first people to move in.”
Sadly Andrew passed away in 2005, aged 40, but Anvil Trust and his memory live on.
His parents John and Sylvia moved away from Billericay, but as trustees still remain a key part of the charity and regularly visit.
Andrew was lucky enough to see a second home open three years before he died thanks to the huge support the community gave to Anvil Trust.
Anvil Mews, which is managed by Swan Housing Association, offers accommodation for two young adults with learning disabilities who need round the clock care.
Touchingly, after his death the charity opened four-bedroom Andrew House in Wickford – named after the man who inspired the whole success story.
Christine said: “Without Andrew and all that happened to him, none of this would have been achieved.
“So many people from the churches and local area have donated money and helped us grow. If it wasn’t for our houses these adults would have to stay at home with their parents.
“Our aim is to make them as independent as possible, and some have left to set up home by themselves, but most of the residents stay long-term.”
Anvil Trust is chaired by Tom Sterry, a dedicated volunteer and finance expert. His skills and knowledge have helped the charity flourish, with Christine, John, Sylvia and fellow trustees Mary Ware and Carol Bendry providing the key first-hand experience and emotional ties.
Tom, a retired accountant, said: “Anvil Trust relies solely on the hard work and dedication of all the volunteers involved in our projects along with the generosity of the local Billericay community.
“Without the work we continue to do, young adults with special needs would find themselves on a long waiting list for the chance to live an independent, but supported life.”
The latest challenge for the close-knit charity is to raise enough money to open another home.
Discussions are currently ongoing with Essex Social Services to find a suitable location for the home, which is expected to open within the next three years.
Anvil Trust could be given a big push towards its target after being shortlisted for a £3,000 grant from the Lloyds Bank Community Fund 2013.
To win, the public has to visit communityfund.lloydsbank.com/ voting/cf and vote for Anvil Trust by Friday.
For more information about the charity’s work, go to anvil trust.co.uk
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