St John Ambulance puts faith in new home

St John Ambulance is hoping its new offices in the Devon town of Tiverton will woo back volunteers who left the organisation after the destruction of its previous office in an arson attack last summer.

The £60,000 former office, situated in the grounds of a local primary school, was the subject of repeated attacks last summer by vandals who smashed windows, set off fire extinguishers and started fires.

The charity continued operating in Tiverton from members’ homes, but Steve Wilcox, operations manager for St John Ambulance Devon, said the attacks had led to a significant proportion of volunteers leaving the organisation because of fears about their personal safety.

He said the previous building had been targeted because of its secluded location. “We have purposely found new rented offices in the city centre so that people feel safer,” he said.

But he admitted that the charity had chosen to rent a new building, rather than buy one, because it was not sure how many of the volunteers would return. “There is no point buying somewhere that may be too big because volunteers don’t come back,” he said. “We may get them back, but morale is low and some of them have lost faith."

He said the arson attack had taken a heavy toll on the organisation financially. “It was a total loss,” he said. “It wasn’t just the building that was destroyed, but also records, uniforms and £18,000-worth of equipment. The insurance covered only the building, but not the cost of demolition or the full cost of building another one. The whole thing has had quite an impact.”

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