Our heroes: Doddinghurst Ladies Group
For more than 25 years a dedicated team have been perfecting their baking skills to bring the community together and raise an amazing £33,772 for Saint Francis Hospice. If you happen to be in Doddinghurst on a Friday morning, then you'll be in for a treat if you pop into The Priests House, next to All Saints Church, as there is guaranteed to be a selection of delicious homemade cakes and lots of friendly faces to welcome you. Doddinghurst Ladies Group run coffee mornings for 48 Fridays of the year to support the hospice and they have become a popular meeting point for residents from the village and the surrounding area. "It is a very good social morning and it is more of an outreach now for people in the village and for people outside the village to come and meet with friends and have a chat," said Stella Perry, 85, who has been involved in the group for the past 20 years. "Sometimes the local Neighbourhood Watch come and hand out goodies and sometimes one of the hospice's ambassadors comes down to talk about the charity. "Everything is donated and every single penny goes to the hospice. "My sister-in-law passed away at the hospice and they were really wonderful to her and my friend, who ran the group with me 16-years-ago, was also cared for at the hospice before she passed away." The number of visitors to the coffee mornings has grown over the years and it was by chance that one man discovered he had a natural talent for baking. Jenny Cook, 75, had been baking regularly for the group over the past 14 years, but when she broke her wrist her husband Peter Cook stepped in. "I had never baked before and I didn't want Jenny to stop going to the group so I said I'd have a go at baking," said Peter, 81. "I was a bit nervous at first but now I take it in my stride. "I enjoy baking, especially when it all turns out ok!" Since then Peter has gone on to win prizes for his chocolate and carrot cake! Joan Davenport, 79, started helping 18 years ago and said its success is down to the great team effort by everyone. "We all get on so well but it is not cliché," she said. "We have a long table and you have to sit where there is a space." Ruby Woodford, 80, joined the group of helpers 15 years ago and was well known for her chocolate dipped shortcake fingers. "I have had a couple of friends who have been in Saint Francis Hospice and after visiting the hospice I knew it was a wonderful place to be involved in," said Ruby. "When I found out about the coffee mornings and that the money raised would be donated to the hospice I wanted to help." Fellow stalwart Diana Smith, 79, said, "I started helping with my friend Kath Johnson over 18 years ago and I still love coming here on Fridays. "I know how much the hospice needs to raise and it is important that we support it as no one knows when they may need it." Stella MacKenzie, 73, said, "I've been involved for 20 years and this group means everything to me. "It is such great support for people as there are lots of people who have lost their husbands and wives." Saint Francis Hospice is at the heart of everything the group does and this was further highlighted when three regular visitors to the coffee morning donated £150 which they recently won at quiz nights. And with the group thriving and proving to be such a valuable source of support for the community, it plans to continue serving cake and tea well into the future. "I really want this group to go on," said Carol Dodd, who currently co-ordinates the group. "The hospice is important and it is great for the village. "We have a lot of regulars and we are getting some new people coming in which is great. "There is always a great atmosphere and I enjoy it. "I definitely get out of it as much as I put into it."