St John’s Church in Holbeach Fen is precious to Judy Jeffries, so much so she has been fundraising to support it for around 47 years, since she moved to the village in 1972.

“Church has always been very important to me” Judy said. “I grew up in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire and made my own mind up that I wanted to go to Chapel and so I would take myself off there on a Sunday.  My parents weren’t churchgoers and neither are my sisters but it is very important to me and I really enjoyed the anniversary teas and the outings we used to go on. Then as I grew older I attended All Saints Church in Walsoken, our local Church" she added.

Over the course of her fundraising there isn’t a lot she hasn’t done – cake sales, three sponsored bike rides, Parish Lunches, BBQ’s, being the tail of a Chinese dragon, historical photo displays of the village in days gone by, a Christmas tree walk, the flower festivals, dances, auctions; to name a few.

Judy said: “There is such a wonderful community spirit in Holbeach St Johns, and although many people don’t attend as worshippers, they want the church to thrive and survive. I remember Mrs Laming, a local farmer, who was responsible for me becoming involved in fund raising, said to me “don’t let the church close” and I have always remembered this, and this statement shows how well regarded the building is to people in the village. They want it to be there when they need it whether that is for a funeral, a wedding or just as a space where people can go and talk to God. It’s for everyone.”

Many churches need a sustained plan for fundraising to ensure that maintenance can be carried out and parish share paid.  As a fundraising stalwart what advice would she give others? “It does help enormously to have contacts and to also have a continuous supply of new ideas” she said. She continued: “But it’s absolutely key that you involve the people in the village and ask them what they want. People do come forward and help, offer new ways of fundraising and invigorate an often weary team.  We try and chose events where people also get something back. We had a wonderful fundraising event in the village hall when the owners of a Chinese restaurant came and both cooked a variety of dishes from scratch and provided entertainment – that’s when I assisted and was the tail end of the Chinese Dragon! What fun we had."

During lockdown, when it was not possible to raise funds, Judy was wondering what she could do to improve cash flow because, as Treasurer, Judy was aware of the position of the church’s finances. Ever proactive, she then embarked on a 41-mile sponsored bike ride and raised a very impressive £1,500.

“John, my husband, did two of the previous bike rides with me but on the last one it was cold and raining so half-way up a big hill he asked me not to ask him again! But he’s 71 and so I will let him off with that. He helps to cut the hedges and gets rid of the garden rubbish for us so it’s still a family affair!  I like to be busy so I also help our churchwarden Paul with things – the whole PCC are a real team here.

“In the early 1990s we had to raise a huge amount of money for a number of different things including replacing some rotten flooring and the guttering, painting both inside and outside; so we organised a different event every month for two years to do it. We held a meat raffle in the pub – John liked helping with that!  At a fundraising ‘Fun Day’ we even got the vicar in stocks - and people paid to throw wet sponges at him!!

"It’s a lot of hard work but you have to get on with it as old buildings always need something doing.”

Judy had two final pointers for those looking to fundraise – one is having courage to ask people and also being a bit cheeky is useful. In closing she gave an anecdote related to her recent sponsored bike ride: When asked by two supporters if they were too late to donate she wryly answered “A treasurer never refuses money”.