The Veterans Contact Point (VCP) has benefitted from the generosity of grant funding made by The Veterans Foundation to help it establish and develop a VCP in Warwick South Warwickshire and to employ a member of staff for one year to help develop its own business support and operations.
This Southern VCP Office and Hub will provide a gateway and support interventions for much needed support to Veterans and their Families living in the South of the County. The VCP has been successfully operating its main base in Nuneaton for a decade along with developing services and interventions for Veterans in the North of Warwickshire which are always open to Veterans from the South who can or are willing to travel to our HQ.
“The Veterans Foundation is one of the country’s fastest-growing military charities and we are proud to work with hundreds of smaller charities and charitable organisations across UK that share our passion: to provide a better life for our Armed Forces family who are in need (our beneficiaries). They help their partner organisations by supporting them to deliver life-changing projects through their grant award scheme.
Many amazing charities like The Veterans Contact Point have significant financial constraints and the Veterans’ Foundation exists to champion their causes and to help them effect their objectives. They do this by funding projects and they also work with their partners to broadcast their initiatives to raise awareness of the challenges facing our armed forces community. They know those challenges can often impact on family members and their pledge is to also offer support for the dependants of those who have served their country.
The Veterans’ Foundation has a unique story. They were formed in 2016 and they have grown quickly since then. Their journey began by sharing the stories of our Armed Forces family on social media and this quickly escalated into a large, trusted community of friends and supporters. In just a few years they had engaged and interacted with millions of people, celebrating our Armed Forces and bringing hope of a better life to those in need of care and assistance.
Their supporters, you, are the heartbeat of the Veterans’ Foundation and through your kind donations, fundraising events and by playing their popular Veterans’ Lottery, challenges are being faced, overcome, and lives are changing for the better.”
The Veterans Contact Point second Veterans Foundation Grant will enable us to start to employ a Business and Operations Support Worker who will be employed initially with this grant for 12 months. This role will allow the Veterans Contact Point stability at a time in its development and growth as currently we are totally reliant for staffing through a very talented and dedicated team Volunteers, many whom are veterans themselves, and who themselves have been supported and wish to “Give Back”
The CEO of The Veterans Contact Point is amazed at the generosity of The Veterans Foundation and in them recognising the fantastic support and interventions that our small but effective Military Charity provide in our Armed Forces Covenant Area. This funding will go a great way in allowing the VCP to expand to providing a base in the South of the County that working with Warwick District Council and CSW AFC Partners will provide support for Veterans and their Families and an operating base for interventions such as Op Courage to be provided from.
John Edward Downes (L/Cpl – 2 PARA & RAMC PARA)
30/04/1941 – 31/12/2021
The Veterans Contact Point joins the Family and Friends of a much-loved Military Veteran Parachutist and Army Medic – Mr John Edward Downes (also known to many as Lonnie or Budgie) in remembrance and in celebration of his life. Lonnie was diagnosed with an asbestos related lung disease, Mesothelioma in late 2020, but passed peacefully in hospital with heart failure. In civvy street Lonnie briefly worked in waste collection and in 1972 he reported that poisonous waste was being dumped locally. As a direct result of this a bill was rushed through Parliament regarding the disposal of toxic waste and was passed into law in March of that year. It is sad to note that around that same time Lonnie was himself exposed to dangerous asbestos waste.
Lonnie (Budgie) Downes (Centre) with fellow Para Veterans Rich and Roger
Lonnie started his military career with 2nd Parachute Regiment (2PARA), later transferring to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) – Parachute Regiment Field Hospital to end his career as a Lance Corporal Para Medic, ending his military career to be with his family, returning to live in Coventry where he became a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Driver and an active trade unionist.
Lonnie Centre with Fellow Members of Bedworth Para’s
He was one of the founding members of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association which was formed to encompass those veterans who had served with Airborne Forces but not in the Parachute Regiment itself. Lonnie continued also to be an active member of the Bedworth Branch of the Parachute Regiment Association (also known as Bedworth Paras), where he became involved as a Welfare Officer supporting the welfare needs of former Para’s which included hospital welfare visits.
Coventry War Memorial Park – Lonnie (right)reminding Lord Mayor of protocols
Budgie was passionate about local veterans, especially those who had served with any of the UK’s Special Forces. His work involved the development of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association Memorial in Coventry City’s War Memorial Park, where he ensured that fallen veterans continue to be remembered. He was also involved in the memorials of two former Royal Marines Frank Parsons and Jesse Owen which are laid in Bedworth and Nuneaton.
He was also active in supporting his own local community of Longford being awarded the Good Citizen Award 2016. He has been involved in raising many tens of thousands of pounds for local good causes which have also included in 2014 a parachute jump in support of Coventry City’s Lord Mayors Appeal and supporting memorials that remember his fellow veterans such as the Pegasus Bridge Memorial which is now situated in the National Memorial Arboretum.
Lonnie on Armed Forces Day his mate Cecil Jeffcoate a D-Day Veteran and Wife
Lonnie was never shy of encouraging and enlisting support in his fund-raising efforts, none more a willing source than Leigh Watts the Landlord of his local The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The Greyhound also obliged Lonnie by allowing and supporting many fund-raising events and even permitting the situating of memorials for local veterans to be remembered.
Lonnie with his collection tin at the Greyhound Pub Longford
His daughter Shelley later said “It always amazed me how he managed to get so many people involved in his endeavours, pulling in help from many people”. The VCP and The Greyhound Inn are organising separate celebrative event in June 2022 where they plan to dedicate a memorial in memory of John Edward (Lonnie/Budgie) Downes.
Shelley also said that she remembered her Dad, “He was a man who would do anything to help anybody, whatever it took. He always did things on his terms and with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. Our home was mostly full of chatter, whistling, singing and all-round cheerfulness, nothing seemed to faze him and problems were never around for long before a solution would be found. Dads diagnosis did not stop him, he remained positive, full of hope from the start to the very end. Two days before Dad went into hospital he had spent 4 hours delivering Christmas Cards, the morning that dad was admitted he had popped out in his car, nothing seemed to be able to stop him or slow him down. His heart was full of love, fun and joy to the very end.”
Picture taken on Armed Forces Day – Lonnie stood with Cecil (Right)
His fellow veterans from the Veterans Contact Point (VCP), which he said had become his place to go to for support and the charity of his heart, became very fond of Lonnie and his death really has impacted on the people with whom he volunteered alongside and those whom he became friends with. The VCP is very much driven by people like Lonnie, who are passionate about the mutual support and comradeship that they provide. It will definitely be a quiet place without his Friday whirlwind visits, talking about people and characters he had known and his “top men”.
Lonnie and one of his best mates Roger Vines (Veteran – 7th Parachute Regt Royal Horse Artillery)
Lonnie has a large family and will be missed by all including his Brothers and Sisters Ron (passed) Les, Sylvia, Phil, Elaine and Kevin. His Son, John, Daughter, Shelley, Son in law, Phil and Grandson, Carter.
He will also be sadly missed by everyone who’s heart he has touched, who’s good cause he has supported and who’s life he has made a little better by his friendship; by his fellow Airborne Family; his fellow Veterans; by his local and wider Community. “Lonnie old pal your reserve parachute didn’t work on this occasion mate”.
Lonnie pictured with General the Lord Dannatt and Warwickshire Lord Lieutenant Tim Cox – Re-opening the VCP 2019
Funeral details and location are not yet known, but his family have said that he requested a Military Funeral with Standards, Berets, Boots and Medals and they hope to honour his wishes. Funeral arrangements are being made with JE Hackett & Sons, Coventry 02476 367149. The wake is planned at The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The VCP are working with the family and will provide funeral information (when known).
Ring 02476 343793 or email email@example.com
“We can no longer see you,
For the light that clothes you is too fine a fire
For our dull, ordinary eyes;
But every day we shall remember you
In the brave glory of the golden sun.”
– – –
Lieutenant Richard Spender – 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
Finally, it is time to say “Hello old pal, stand easy duty done, welcome to the final DZ”
4th January 2022
It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our fellow veteran and good friend Lonnie Downes. Lonnie was a tireless supporter and fundraiser for the VCP, the Coventry Airborne Forces Association and the Coventry War Memorial Park, and was highly respected by everyone who knew him.
Stand easy, Lonnie, you will be greatly missed. Our flag flies at half mast today.
We’re proud to announce that the VCP has received the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award.
The award was presented at the National Memorial Arboretum on Wednesday 3rd November and collected on behalf of the VCP by Tom Murphy and Jeff Worthington.
On Saturday 4th September the Veterans Contact Point attended a large important community event in the local area.
It was for our own fun, enjoyment and to relax, but Veterans Support, Veterans Awareness and communication within the Community was the underlying reason. Informing our Veterans, families and the communities about the fabulous work being carried out in the area by our Armed Forces Covenant Partnership.
The Spitfire fly past was absolutely awesome but even such a spectacular bird was overshadowed by the event and the pure community spirit witnessed on the ground.
Many thanks to the organisers, volunteers and hosts for a wonderful day.
#veteranscontactpoint #warwickshireveterans #VeteransCommunity #localcommunities
The VCP in Partnership with Forward Assist Charity https://www.forward-assist.com are pleased to offer a FREE 2 day none residential Sleep Retreat facilitated by Charley Morley at the Veterans Contact Point in Nuneaton. This course is also funded by The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.
We will not only provide you with access to this fantastic skilled and successful practitioner but we will also provide food and refreshments over the two days. Unfortunately the only catch is you HAVE TO BE A VETERAN or CURRENT SERVING MEMBER (Someone who has served 1 day or more in any of HM Armed Forces as a Regular or as a Reservist) or be the wife/spouse/partner of someone who has served or is still serving.
Places are still available but are being snapped up quickly – we will ensure a COVID safe delivery throughout the whole weekend, as such we may insist the wearing of facemasks when moving around the building. Please ring us 02476343793 or email on the email address shown in the poster(s)
Please bring a pillow !
Ed a RRF Veteran has been instrumental in ensuring fellow Veterans and their Families are not forgotten during the impacts of COVID19 & National Lockdown.
Like the VCP Hub, Ed has been “out there” doing the right thing for those in need in the Stratford Upon Avon/Warwick and LSPA areas. As a Volunteer Ed also runs a Armed Forces & Veterans Breakfast Club, but had to suspend this due to the current restrictions. This allowed Ed to focus on providing outreach welfare and buddy calls to Veterans known to him and the VCP ensuring that they were included in support.
Working mainly from his home or boot of his car, Ed accompanied by his Wife and Children put together food parcels, NAFFI Break Packs some of which were donated by Morrisons in Leamington & Stratford.
Working with lead Armed Forces Covenant Partners in delivering effective interventions such as that provided by Ed, the VCP hopes to secure a base in the South of Warwickshire to help Ed with a place to operate from and for a meeting point to bring together other veterans for a “brew and a chat/banter” once COVID is under control and restrictions are lifted and group contact allowable.
Pictured in the main image is Ed with the Morrisons (SOA) Community Lead and Cllr Wallace Redford – WCC AFC Lead.
Once we have information about a Southern Hub we will share across our social media and through direct contact with veterans and families known to us.
The VCP is extremely proud of the work being done by Ed and applaud his dedication and motivation to his fellow veterans/families and recognise again the power and commitment of veterans in supporting others. The VCP is reliant on Veterans like Ed and he compliments the other Veterans who provide this service across our other areas. We are always open for fresh volunteers, partnerships and projects – contact details: email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 02476343793 to learn more.
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Dear Trustees, Staff and Volunteers,
This year has been like no other, COVID19 pandemic put our lives on hold, threatened our health, brought our social lives to a virtual standstill but despite this we continued to be there for our fellow Armed Forces Community in particular those veterans in need. At the same time, this year has also taught us just how strong and resilient we are both as humans, as a Charity and the role we play in our local Armed Forces Covenant Partnership.
With the help of our small but dedicated team of staff and volunteers, we continued to provide compassion, empathy, and creativity in the way we supported those in need. I can confidently say that we all rose to the challenge, we gave some of our personal freedom to keep others safe and we cared more than ever about one another.
Since our fresh new beginning, the reopening of the VCP late 2019 following the fantastic refurbishment done by Balfour Beatty, we have well and truly been recognised by our local community and wider afield. We hosted Lord Dannatt and HRH Prince Charles at the VCP, with many other community dignitaries and representatives from across the Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire. We have successfully developed new interventions such as the popular Brew & Banter and more recently chef Nick’s Breakfast clubs. Being innovative in the way we deliver against our funded projects has allowed us to show just what a forward facing, open and intelligent Armed Forces Charity we are. Who would have imagined that we would be confident enough to go on-line into the virtual world to ensure that “Veterans Should Not Be Forgotten”.
Community and personal relationships have never been more valuable, we have discovered newfound gratitude for our own health and the health of the people around us and at the VCP have adapted to the routines of cleaning, sanitising, hand washing and distancing to ensure we are operating safely allowing our veterans to feel safe in our environment. Tam and his dedication to supporting his Atherstone Hub and in developing the VCP Nuneaton Hub reminded us all of how precious the small things in life are, things that we perhaps previously took for granted.
Recently we sadly lost one of our team, Lyn Kelley who sadly passed away. Lyn had been a member of our team for many years and had shown dedication and support to the VCP touching the soles of many other veterans through ensuring “ we remained open” no matter what weather or situation. I recall Lyn even making brews for the first Balfour Beatty staff who came on site shortly after our closure for the refurbishment. I know that you will join me in sending her family our warm wishes for a peaceful Christmas and that for those who can, we will raise a class in her memory.
As this year is coming to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting the Veterans Contact Point, through our Board of Trustee’s providing its Governance and from the team of staff and volunteers who continue to show dedication and innovation in adapting our services to “fit” the needs of veterans and meeting COVID requirements during this difficult period. It means a lot to me.
For the year ahead, I hope that we can go back to socialising, travelling, and exploring. I also hope that we can return to our in-person events and networking. I know you have missed those as much as we have, and we cannot wait to see you again soon.
I am currently working on completion of the final few project reports and encourage you to share your photos, experiences, and your unique perspective of our approaches and delivery of services to our Armed Forces Community. We end this year with master chef Nick and the Team providing a home cooked 3 course Christmas Lunch to 20 veterans this coming Monday, fresh cooked Turkey and all the trimmings. Then finally before we break up for a well deserved rest, we will train another 5 veterans in Peer Support techniques so that hopefully when the time is right, they too will be able to come on board to provide support as they have been provided by their peers
I encourage you all to continue to contribute thoughts and ideas on what the VCP could do during the coming New Year, the programme is not written and remains flexible to your suggestions, so please share.
But first, let us enjoy the Christmas and New Year with our family and friends, let’s not forget our fellow Armed Forces Personnel who are away from their families on operations or duty during this period, some of us have been in a similar position during our own military careers. We hope that the impact of your work and that our of Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant Partners have made, will ensure that Veterans are remembered during the Christmas period.
Stay safe and well, thank you all sincerely for all you have done and continue to do. Have a very happy Christmas and New Year.
The impact on COVID19 has been devastating on people in the community, with various Lockdowns, Firebreaks, Tiers and so forth. Generally Veterans across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire have proved to be resilient and have coped, but some still struggle with isolation, loneliness impacting on their physical and mental well-being.
As Veterans ourselves we appreciate how important it is to “be home” at Christmas, our own military life often meant that we could be away at this time of year. However no matter where in the world we where, what ever corner of a field or desert we may find ourselves, we always tried to celebrate Christmas. A tradition exists where Officers and SNCO’s served Christmas Dinner to the enlisted men as a show of thanks from their own service and loyalty to whom they in turn served.
The VCP is extremely proud to provide a little festive cheer to our veterans as a way of giving back and ensuring that we maintain a tradition that our former servicemen and women did before us.
On the 21st December at the VCP in Nuneaton, we will be providing a 3 course cooked Christmas Lunch, cooked by Nick Caswell our Chef, assisted by Dawn his Wife, Tam, Jock and John our Peer Support workers/servers/dish washers, to needy veterans from across CSW AFC Area. Food has been donated by Morrisons (LSPA & SOA) and by food donated through Warwickshire County Council, topped up by a small donation from the VCP coffers. NBBC have kindly offered to help with taxi’s (Tier3 allowing) to transport veterans to/from lunch.
Please see the poster for full details, be mindful that we are limiting sittings to a maximum of 6 veterans per sitting. You may also be required to wear a facemask when not eating and ALL dinners will be required to follow strict COVID guidance/precautions at all times.
We require you to ring and book a place for dinner, you may be asked why you need to come – this is to ensure those in priority need get a place first. You will be informed what time your sitting is and when to be at and leave the VCP by.
On behalf of the Board of Trustee’s, Staff, Volunteers, Veterans and many Supporters – thank you for ensuring that the VCP can support and be there for Veterans and their Families from across the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Area, We wish you all a safe and Happy Christmas, no matter where you may be in the world.