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Welsh charity shops urgently appeal for volunteers

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British Heart Foundation

THIS Christmas BHF Cymru is urgently appealing for people to donate the gift of time at one of the charity’s 32 stores across Wales, after the pandemic led to a fall of around 20 percent in volunteers.

Currently around 480 people donate approximately 3,500 hours of volunteering support each week in Wales, where the BHF has 32 shops, selling a range of preloved and new items – from clothes, toys and books to electricals and furniture. The British Heart Foundation funds research into heart and circulatory conditions which affect around 340,000 people across Wales.

The charity is launching its Operation Elf recruitment drive, encouraging the public to give any time they can in the run up to Christmas and support their local BHF shop.  

December is one of the busiest times of year for the charity’s stores, but sadly some may be forced to reduce opening hours if they cannot recruit more volunteers ahead of the festive season. This could reduce funds that can be turned into life-saving heart research. 

Across Wales volunteers have found that giving their time to the BHF reaps rewards in their lives.

Dave Broadrick, 68, who lives in Pembrey, says he enjoys assembling flat pack furniture and breathing new life into vintage pieces which he upcycles with fellow volunteer Pete Mclveney, also 68, by adding a coat of paint or varnish and wallpapering the insides.

Their revived projects are sold in the Carmarthen Home store “It’s wonderful to be able to do something to help people, now that I’m retired,” the former London cabbie and window cleaner says. “Pete and I have a great time bringing these things back to their former glory, and improving them a lot of the time, with a lick of paint and a bit of TLC.

“I love volunteering. After I moved to Wales from London nine years ago, I had a little shop of my own in Kidwelly, where I’d refurbish furniture, and that’s where I met Pete. He’d help out, stripping things down and rebuilding them with me. We had a great time. When I gave that up, I wanted to do something positive with my time to make a difference, and my wife spotted that the BHF needed volunteers. I haven’t looked back.” 

At the charity’s Bridgend Home store, there’s a family of volunteers affectionately referred to as “The Popettes”. Nan, Chris Pope, 67, started at the BHF as a work placement in 2015 and enjoyed it so much she carried on volunteering when the placement finished.

Chris encouraged her granddaughter, Emily, to volunteer whilst at college. Emily, 24, became an employee for the BHF as a paid Sales Assistant in 2017 and progressed her career as Assistant Manager this year.

Emily’s mum Tracey, 43, and brother Jordan, 20, started volunteering soon after Emily, meaning BHF Bridgend is truly a family affair.

Jordan says, “I love volunteering at the BHF Bridgend Home Store as we are one massive family. We all support each other and work together to raise funds for this fantastic cause. I especially love Christmas time as we all dress up in festive outfits and it creates an amazing atmosphere for our customers, which they really appreciate.”

Keith Gasteen, 77, started volunteering at the BHF’s shop in Llandudno this summer after his wife passed away earlier in the year with Covid. She had suffered from vascular dementia in later life and retired teacher Keith wanted to give back to the BHF because the charity funds research into the condition, as well as finding something positive to do within his local community.

In Cwmbran, Ben Warburton, 33, says volunteering has helped with his mental health and wellbeing. He says, “I started working for the BHF in August 2020. I wasn’t able to do much when I started, but I have now become someone who can do things that I wouldn’t do before because I was scared.”

Ben’s self-confidence has grown through volunteering, and he now enjoys operating the till, doing store administration and answering the phone, something which had previously been a challenge for him.

Ben says, “My biggest fear was answering the shop phone to customers as I didn’t know who was on the other end of the line. I started battling my fears and one day when the phone was ringing, I just went up and answered it.”

The Chief Executive of the BHF Dr Charmaine Griffiths joined the team at the charity’s Crwys Road, Cardiff Home Plus store where she met volunteers and staff and found out about Operation Elf. She said “It’s a great way to spend time with our wonderful team of retail colleagues and volunteers and it’s really fun. Just put your elf hat on and get stuck in! 

Many thanks to our manager Perveen, colleagues and all the volunteers for having me, and for all that you do to help fund life-saving research, it really makes a difference.”

Head of BHF Cymru, Adam Fletcher, said, “Charmaine, thank you so much for elfing out, and I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. To the Welsh public we now say, what are you waiting for? Sign up now – I guarantee you will have a great time!”

“Volunteers are our life-blood. We simply cannot operate our shops and stores without their generous support.  Currently, our volunteering hours are down 20 percent compared to pre-Covid times, so this Christmas we’re asking the wonderful Welsh public to donate to us the gift of time and give whatever hours they can.” 

BHF Cymru has plenty of exciting volunteering roles available for those looking to support their local community, improve their wellbeing and widen their social network while supporting a good cause and helping the environment.    

  

 “You can commit just a few hours each week or a few days,” says Adam. “Volunteering at the BHF is a great opportunity to meet new people, boost your confidence, gain retail experience and help us give unwanted items a new lease of life. Every hour given will help us raise funds to support those living with heart and circulatory diseases.” 

  

Volunteers can get involved in tasks such as telephone and logistical administration, operating tills, merchandising on the shop floor and answering customer queries. The charity also offers online roles for those keen on honing their tech skills, by helping to research, photograph and list items for BHF’s online shops.   

  

Behind the scenes volunteers can take on warehouse assistant or specialist roles which can provide transferrable skills that are perfect for future job applications. There are also opportunities to become volunteer stock collection drivers, stock generators and volunteer recruiters who get out in the local area.     

Currently, heart and circulatory diseases cause around 1 in 4 deaths in Wales. The BHF funds around £4 million worth of research in Welsh universities aimed at finding cures and treatments, and ultimately saving lives. The charity says that the support of volunteers is more vital than ever as it hopes to inspire the local community to give the gift of time to save and improve lives.  

The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on the BHF’s income, which is why the charity is now urging communities to support their nearest shop by taking up flexible volunteering opportunities.  

This year, the BHF will save around 71,000 tonnes of goods from going to waste, by selling over half a million pieces of living room furniture and 14,000 tonnes of preloved clothes.  

  

Every pound raised in BHF shops helps the charity to support those living with heart and circulatory diseases. Your gift of time can help the BHF, help them.   

  

For more information on how to get involved head to www.bhf.org.uk/elf or find your local shop at bhf.org.uk/shop 

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Development Bank backs Carmarthenshire manufacturer

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MIDTEC, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of chimney cowls and flue systems has completed the construction of 2500 square feet of additional manufacturing space at Capel Hendre Industrial Estate near Ammanford, using a £220,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales.

Formed in 2003 by Managing Director, Trefor Jenkins, Midtec first benefitted from investment from the Development Bank in 2005.

They have since had several rounds of funding from the Development Bank to support growth plans and the next generation is looking to the future with the new additional space being used to house a state of the art ENSIS laser cutting machine, supplied by Amada.

Trefor said: “The ongoing support of the Development Bank means that we’ve been able to grow the business, drive efficiencies and invest in new market opportunities. We’ve also introduced new products including the MidCat, an innovative solution for reducing the pollution created by wood burning stoves and the only one of its kind in the UK.”

“Our latest investment in our technology means that we can now offer a laser cutting service that will help to improve our quality and production processes and save time on the turnaround of customer orders. We hope that this will play an important part in our future growth. Indeed, our turnover is on target to exceed £2 million this year and I’m delighted that my son Thomas and daughter Hannah are already playing a vital role in the business as we focus on our long-term sustainability.”

Richard Easton, a Portfolio Executive with the Development Bank, said: “Midtec is a family run and owned business that is known for its high quality and excellent customer service. With our continued support, Trefor, Thomas, Hannah and the team have created a modern manufacturing facility that has a really exciting future ahead.”

The loan came from the £204 million Wales Business Fund which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government.

Loans, mezzanine finance, and equity investments are available for deals between £50,000 and £2 million with terms ranging from one to seven years for small and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 250 employees) based in Wales, or willing to relocate to Wales.

Construction company TRJ of Ammanford carried out the building work, while Jamie Reynolds of Cennen Solutions has also been providing strategic support.

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Trainees are the lifeblood of south Wales accountancy firm

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ASHMOLE & CO are encouraging those qualifying from university, waiting for their GCSE or A Level results to consider a future career in accountancy. 

Trainees are the lifeblood of the accountancy firm which has offices throughout south Wales.

James Davies has been employed by Ashmole & Co since 2017 as a Trainee Accountant based in the Carmarthen office. James has steadily been progressing to becoming a fully qualified accountant whilst working with the firm full time. 

He has just recently passed his 10th exam and has just five more exams to pass until he gains his Chartered Accountancy qualification (ICAEW).

As a Trainee Accountant, day to day, James prepares financial accounts for clients, Tax returns and VAT returns for local individuals, sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.

Sharon George, Partner in the Carmarthen Ashmole & Co office, said, “It is important as a profession that we help nurture the next generation of professional accountants. Trainee staff members are the lifeblood for the future success of our firm. We are a local business and are always keen to employ those who live locally.”

James lives in Llandeilo and after gaining his A Levels at Ysgol Gyfun Tregib he gained his AAT qualifications at Coleg Sir Gar whilst working for Pritchard Jones Accountants in Carmarthen. When the firm’s director retired in 2017 the firm was taken over by Ashmole & Co and James has been employed with Ashmole & Co since. 

James said, “Providing a high-quality service to current and new clients is the most rewarding part of the job for me. Providing this reliable service allows local businesses to manage the day to day running of their business while entrusting us to manage their accounts and tax affairs. The most challenging part is the substantial changes to IT in accounting over the last decade and that will continue into the next decade. It’s important for us to keep up to date with current technologies.”

In his spare time James likes keeping physically active at the gym, running and cycling. He is a keen sports fan, especially rugby and is an avid supporter of the Scarlets rugby team.

Ashmole & Co are one of the largest chartered certified accountants in Wales. The rapidly expanding and modern firm often has job opportunities for enthusiastic individuals both qualified and non-qualified within the organisation. 

If you feel you have the qualities to be part of the team at Ashmole & Co, please email, with your CV attached, to AshmoleHR@ashmole.co.uk. Alternatively, apply for a specific vacancy listed on the website: www.ashmole.co.uk

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House prices in Carmarthenshire rise at the highest rate across west Wales

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HOUSE prices in Carmarthenshire have risen by 17.5% annually in the second quarter of 2022 (April-June) to reach a new peak price of £228,609.

The figures have been released from Principality Building Society’s Wales House Price Index for Q2 2022, which demonstrates the rise and fall in house prices in each of the 22 local authorities in Wales.

Carmarthenshire’s double digit percentage rise annually was the second highest across the whole of Wales, after Blaenau Gwent, and coupled with a strong quarterly rise of 4.7%. Ceredigion also experienced a new peak price in Q2 of £274,967 reflected in a 12.3% annual increase and 4.4% quarterly rise.

While Pembrokeshire also recorded a strong 9.9% annual increase in Q2 to £248,172, it saw a slight dip across the quarter by 2.2%.

Shaun Middleton, Head of Distribution at Principality Building Society, said: “Against the backdrop of significant cost of living pressures, with food, fuel and energy prices continuing to spiral, higher interest rates anticipated from the Bank of England, and the collapse in confidence levels across companies and households, there is a growing expectation that the wider economy will enter recession over the coming quarters. Across the UK, these cost-of living pressures have begun feeding through into lenders’ affordability calculations, whilst higher mortgage rates might affect the ability and willingness of households to borrow.

“Such changes appear modest for now, but they are cumulative in nature, and their eventual impact will be influenced by the ultimate extent of rate increases, the resilience of the jobs market and the ability of households to increase income. The housing market in Wales starts from a strong position, as prices have been steadily rising post-Covid restrictions but is not immune to these macro-economic challenges, and the likelihood is that housing demand and property price inflation will ease over the coming quarters.”

Wales continues to experience some of the strongest property price increases across the UK as the average price of a property rose to more than £240,000 for the first time. The new peak average price of £240,635 in Wales reflects an 11.5% annual increase and a 3.1% quarterly increase.

Half of local authorities reported double digit percentage price increases in Q2, with nine areas also recording new peaks. Blaenau Gwent and the Vale of Glamorgan join Carmarthenshire in reporting annual price increases of more than 15%.

Principality’s Wales House Price Index estimates there were as many as 11,900 transactions in Wales in Q2, 9% higher than in Q1 and well above corresponding levels in 2019, pre-Covid. In the second quarter of 2022, sales of detached homes are down nearly a fifth (19%) while sales of flats are up 14%.

For more information go to: http://www.principality.co.uk/mortgages/house-price-index

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