FOLLOWING a plea for help from carer Ruth Luffrum back in August 2021, we featured army veteran Matthew James who suffers with multiple Sclerosis and was struggling to live in his maisonette in Warden Hill, which wasn’t fit for purpose.
Now, with the help of local businesses and the kindness of Cheltenham Post readers, the maisonette has had a remarkable make-over and Matthew’s home has been transformed. The interior has been completely renovated, including a total rewiring, all the walls have been replastered, new plumbing and shower has been fitted, as well as a new kitchen and flooring.
Soon after we published Matthew’s plight, SSAFA, The Armed Forces charity, contacted us and we passed on Matthews details. They visited Matthew and assessed his situation, then purchased him a new mobility scooter and reclining chair from Disabled Care and Mobility in Neptune Business Park Cheltenham.
They are also arranging for new windows to be fitted.
Cheltenham Post advertiser Obsidian Kitchens, part of the George Bence Group, donated a kitchen and Hatherley Worktops supplied a Quartz worktop. Dave Farehy’s business BST Electrical supplied all electrical supplies and volunteer Neil Jeffries did an amazing job completely rewiring the whole property, including making switches lower and everything more accessible for Matthew.
Travis Perkins kindly donated all the plastering materials needed to totally re-skim the property, while B&Q Cheltenham also gave to the cause, and Mira showers (who Matthew used to work for) contributed a brand new shower from their range. Local plumber Tony Cox, whose son was in the services, gave his time to put in new radiators and the shower, as well as tackling all the other plumbing issues that cropped up, along with Jake G who helped with the kitchen plumbing.
Project Manager and local man Mark Hopkins said:
“IT’S AMAZING HOW ALL THIS CAME TOGETHER. RUTH, MATTHEW’S CARER, WITH HELP FROM ALL THE VOLUNTEERS HAVE BASICALLY CHANGED HIS LIFE. IT’S BEEN AN ABSOLUTE PLEASURE TO BE INVOLVED AND FROM THE FIRST DAY IT STARTED I’VE BEEN DELIGHTED AT HOW MANY OF MATTHEW’S FRIENDS HAVE COME TO GIVE US A HAND.”
Mark got involved after reading about Matthew, having known him for many years but not realising he needed the assistance. Mark has been the driving force behind the work.
One of Matthew’s oldest friends and ex-serviceman Lee ‘Noddy’ Holder, together with Mickey Webb and local Pat Cox, did an exceptional job of clearing out the maisonette and filling the skips which were donated free of charge by Elliots. David ‘Diddy’ Dicks also worked tirelessly, returning home from his day job to help, and he did all the decorating. Local man Tom Smart from Salisbury Avenue fitted the floor. They say an army marches on its stomach, and Racheal Hopkins from The Lounge hairdressers in Salisbury Avenue supplied the workers with bacon sandwiches, while Papa Johns Pizza in Winchcombe Street delivered some delicious pizzas.
All the plastering and general internal building and kitchen fitting was done by Andy Claridge and his step son Niall McKinnon who worked night and day to fit into the time line. Whilst all the work was being done Matthew stayed at the Delta Chase Hotel on Shurdington Road Cheltenham, who donated a free week B&B to Matthew.
Ruth, Matthew’s carer, said: “This has been amazing from the beginning, I cannot believe how much money has been raised by the Cheltenham Post readers, and the amount of people who have come forward to help has been incredible. The project has been such a success and Matthew now has a property that he can get around safely in, providing him with access that he may need in the future. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mark Cuzner from Cheltenham Post as without him we could have never have got Matthew’s predicament out to the public, and also to Mark Hopkins our project manager who has been a rock taking the pressure off me and managing everything. Mark was incredible, however I cannot thank everyone involved enough. Matthew’s outlook on life has changed as he was not in a very good place at all before. We are truly grateful.”
Matthew said: “Words cannot express how I felt when I saw what has been done, I blubbed like a baby! I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart and it shows that there are really good people out there who care about people less fortunate.”
Matthew’s bucket collection day at Cheltenham Town FC’s last home game of the season against Bolton will now be donated to SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity, where Matthew and other ex colleagues with be there with friends and family to help raise funds for ex-servicemen who find themselves in a similar difficult situation.