A dapper military veteran is enjoying a much more orderly life thanks to support from a community-minded company and an Armed Forces charity.

Dougie Shelley, 92, from Southend, has always been extremely proud of his appearance and has a carefully assembled collection of shoes and clothes.

He lives in a warden controlled studio flat, so space is at a premium and, up until recently, he didn’t have any bedroom furniture to store his clothing in. The lack of storage meant that Dougie’s flat became very cluttered, which made his home a trip hazard for him.

Fortunately, Dougie’s local Armed Forces charity, SSAFA in Southend, was able to raise money to buy him a brand new set of bedroom furniture - but they didn’t have the manpower to assemble it.

In early October, Graham Bernard, a 37-year-old operations manager at Openreach, Britain’s digital network business, voluntarily visited Dougie to help declutter his flat and assemble his new furniture.

A spokesman for SSAFA Southend said: “Although it may seem like a small kindness, Graham’s volunteering will make a huge difference to Dougie’s life as he will be able to live safely and comfortably in his home.”


Dougie's home before the tidy up

Mr Bernard, 37, from Brentwood, is looking to continue his support for SSAFA, by visiting other veterans who need support in their home. Next, he plans to visit a blind veteran whose flat is in desperate need of refurbishing and decoration, which will take approximately a week to complete.

He said: “We were presented with an opportunity to support Dougie by helping to clear out an old wardrobe in his flat and build new wardrobes and chest of drawers.

“In doing this we re-arranged the furniture and cleared some much-needed space for Dougie to move around his flat without tripping over his clothes.

“It was great to be able to spend some time making sure Dougie’s flat was safe and clean for him to live in and great to hear how pleased Dougie was with the end result.

We worked with Michelle Everett, who is the divisional secretary for SSAFA Southend and Rochford and volunteers tirelessly 24/7 to ensure people like Dougie are well looked after and kept safe.’

Since 2015, Openreach has raised more than £100,000 for SSAFA, the UK’s oldest Armed Forces charity, and its staff have lent their support to members of the military community.

Tegan Jones, director of fundraising at SSAFA, said: “We are thrilled with this milestone being reached. It’s a testament to the team at Openreach being fully committed since the start of our partnership in 2015.