Volunteer retires after 18 years of work to save historic Bakewell charity

A dedicated community volunteer for a Bakewell charity retired this month after almost two decades of helping to change the lives of people going through hardship.
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Mike Hillam has stepped down as clerk to the trustees of St. John’s Hospital, Bakewell Almshouses after 18 years in the role, in which time he has helped secure a future for the historic building on South Church Street and the organisation’s capacity to support residents in times of need.

Trustees, residents and friends recently gathered in the gardens of the almshouses to celebrate the occasion and to thank Mike for his exceptional service.

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Chairman of the trustees Ian Sharpe said: “Mike’s work and continued enthusiasm over the years has been key to a significant local building being saved and the charity being able to continue to provide housing for locals in need, the purpose for which it was originally established in 1602.”

Mike was presented with an original painting of the almshouses by local artist Michael Groves.Mike was presented with an original painting of the almshouses by local artist Michael Groves.
Mike was presented with an original painting of the almshouses by local artist Michael Groves.

Mike took up the voluntary role of clerk in 2004 when the charity was facing some massive challenges.

At that time the 18th century almshouses were unoccupied and in such poor condition that the district council had prohibited their use. With no income or capital to address the situation, the charity was on the verge of being shut down.

Mike stepped forward to lead the fundraising efforts which netted around £325,000 required for the refurbishment of the grade II listed building.

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He also worked tirelessly to overcome a range of issues associated with the building works, not least the moment when the main contractor went into liquidation.

His patience and perseverance paid off with the totally renovated homes reopening to residents in 2007 and welcoming a steady flow of tenants ever since.

These efforts were recognised with a number of accolades made to the charity, including a prestigious national award personally presented to Mike and the trustees by Prince Charles.

Having completed the modernisation and restoration project, and moreover having achieved financial stability and viability for the foreseeable future, the charity is now exploring other opportunities to help people by developing additional almshouses in the town.

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