’20 for 20 in 2020′ set to boost county-wide appeal

A businesswoman’s plans for expansion were marred by her father’s terminal illness. Now she aims to repay his carers and the local community with a series of special fundraising events in his honour. Tony Wenham reports.

Fiona Brown and her dad had a special bond, with father and daughter working together in the family business.

After half a dozen years in the same office, dad Ron Pollin’s dream of passing the reins on to Fiona came to pass and he took a back seat in Open Contact, the Norwich-based outsource call centre, while remaining chairman and majority shareholder.

However, in 2017, just as they were planning to move offices to grow the business, former advertising man Ron, aged 70, became unwell.

“He had cancer of the bladder and then, separately, developed cancer of the neck,” explains Fiona. “The cancer progressed very rapidly and he was given a matter of months to live.

“He soon began to deteriorate and was admitted to hospital. After a couple of weeks we managed to get him referred to Priscilla Bacon Lodge, the specialist palliative care centre in Norwich. He didn’t have long left and we were very lucky to get him a bed.

“Here he received specialist care in a private room; he was looked after with dignity and great care and the attention that he needed. From day one, we could see the dedication of the staff in dealing with complex medical issues as well as the emotions of patients and their families.

“They all deserve medals for the work that they do. It’s a true calling, and we are so grateful for the care dad received in the short week he was there before his death in August 2018.”

However, Fiona was also aware of the limitations of existing facilities at the Lodge, which has been serving the people of Norfolk for more than 40 years.

An expanding and ageing Norfolk population is now outgrowing the 16-bed Lodge and a £12.5 million appeal was launched last spring to build a new and bigger Priscilla Bacon Hospice on a site near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

Ever-increasing demand, for inpatient beds as well as day and respite care means that greater capacity is desperately needed. The new hospice will offer the most modern facilities, plus a wider range of community day care and out-patient services, providing those who need care a greater breadth of choice.

Already more than £5 million has been raised, but there is still a long way to go before work can start on the 24-bed unit which will serve all of Norfolk.

“It’s clear that the current Lodge is not enough for the whole county, and I absolutely see the need for a new hospice,” says Fiona.

Now she and her team at Open Contact, currently celebrating 20 years in business, are focusing on staging 20 fundraising events to raise £5,000 in their anniversary year – “20 for 20 in 2020”, as they’re calling it.

“I’ve been thinking for a while about doing something to give back to the local community,” says Fiona. “I’d done the Race for Life for Cancer Research, but when I heard about the plans to build a new hospice it really resonated with me. I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Fiona and the company’s 50-plus staff are now formulating plans for the 20 events, which will raise much-needed funds for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal, while honouring the man who founded Open Contact 20 years ago.

Already in the mix are the possibility of an assault on the Three Peaks Challenge to climb the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours; one of the team will be seeking sponsorship for running in the Norwich Half-Marathon; bucket collectors will be out in the city; and a planned big birthday bash for clients and staff later in the year could feature a secret auction and a raffle.

“We’re aiming to raise a minimum of £5,000,” says Fiona. “Certainly, the team are very excited by the possibilities.”

To back ’20 for 20 in 2020′, email fiona.brown@opencontact.co.uk.