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Meet village hero Glenda Tooke from Rollesby

PUBLISHED: 11:35 22 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:35 22 May 2017

Glenda Tooke pictured just after she received her British Empire Medal (photo: Antony Kelly)

Glenda Tooke pictured just after she received her British Empire Medal (photo: Antony Kelly)

Archant Norfolk 2016

Helping out and fundraising are better than holidays for village stalwart Glenda Tooke. This month she will be making money for charities with an exhibition of archive pictures and a flower festival

Holly Farm, Rollesby, pre 1933. Susannah Gaze with her nephewsHolly Farm, Rollesby, pre 1933. Susannah Gaze with her nephews

For seven generations Glenda Tooke’s family has lived in the same village, worshipped in the same chapel and, for the past five generations, lived in the same house.

Generations of the family have organised village events, volunteered at the village school and served on committees in and around Rollesby, near Great Yarmouth.

Glenda, now 62, of Holly Farm in the village, has run fetes, flower shows, charity lunches and coffee mornings, raised money for good causes as close as the village hall and as far away as Romania – and every Christmas gives an orange to each child at the village primary school.

Seven generations of Glenda’s family have been stalwarts of the local Methodist church, playing vital roles in village life for longer than anyone remembers. Glenda, who was awarded the British Empire Medal last year for services to the community, loves carrying on the family traditions.

The opening of Rollesby Village Hall in 1959. The beautifully-dressed little girl presenting flowers to Lady Ralphs is Glenda Tooke. Her grandfather, Sidney Gaze, is seated and her mum is waiting to lift her off the stageThe opening of Rollesby Village Hall in 1959. The beautifully-dressed little girl presenting flowers to Lady Ralphs is Glenda Tooke. Her grandfather, Sidney Gaze, is seated and her mum is waiting to lift her off the stage

“It’s probably a family and Methodist thing,” she says. “Holly Farm was always used to give lunch or tea to visiting preachers.

“The reason I do it is my Christian faith. I love helping. I usually have a smile on my face and not a lot fazes me. I organise events but without friends who help man the stalls, serve refreshments and so on I could do nothing. But most of all I thank my husband who is always helping to load the car or set up tables and chairs and just put up with me!”

Together they have raised around £100,000 for local, national and international good causes.

It was Glenda’s great-great grandparents who first bought two cottages in the village and built Holly Farm on the site. Her grandfather lived there for 80 years, her mum for 83 and now Glenda has lived in the house for 60 of her 62 years. “I love my home. It’s not large or fancy, but just home,” she says.

Rollesby Village Sign (photo: James Bass)Rollesby Village Sign (photo: James Bass)

Over the weekend of May 13 and 14 she will host a display of some of the photographs, maps and newspaper cuttings her family has collected over the decades, putting on the exhibition in aid of the village hall and Rollesby’s Happy Rollers club for the over 60s. There will be birthday cards dating back to 1910, plus photographs of children at the village school in the 1960s and 70s.

“I love fundraising, working out new games and events,” says Glenda. “But it’s getting harder as charities need more money and there are fewer people to help.”

For many years she organised most of the games at school fetes in Rollesby and Martham and was a school governor and chair of the PTA. But even she cannot compete with her grandfather. “Grandad Sidney Gaze was a school governor for 66 years!” says Glenda.

Every Christmas she carries on the family tradition of giving each pupil an orange. “I’m not sure when the oranges started but my mother continued it, as do I. It’s the tradition, I could give the equivalent money but I’ve been told it wouldn’t be the same.”

And she also began her own Christmas tradition. “For 30 years I’ve been collecting Christmas trees,” says Glenda. “They range from an inch high to eight feet high and are made from glass, wood, pottery, knotted, metal, all mediums. I now have 1,300!

“When I was 50 I had an open house with donations for the Salvation Army and displayed about 250 trees. Since 2005 I have organised a tree festival at different Methodist churches in the circuit - Martham, Ludham, Freethorpe, Hemsby and Potter Heigham - raising about £10,000 in all. This Christmas we will be back at Martham from December 8-10, with more than 1,000 trees.”

For the past 30 Augusts Glenda has hosted a coffee morning in her garden in aid of Methodist charities. She also organises an annual Macmillan charity coffee morning and has been a member of the parish council for more than 30 years, following both her grandfather and her father, who each served as chairman. She is the treasurer of various local Methodist organisations, a former treasurer and president of the village Women’s Institute and says: “I’m the treasurer for most things in Rollesby including the village hall!”

It was her husband who first heard the news about the British Empire Medal. “We open each other’s post and when I walked in one day he said ‘What have you done now?’ Glenda recalls. “I thought I had a speeding or parking ticket! I was amazed but very pleased.”

Glenda and her husband, David, have a daughter, Rachel, who lives near Bury St Edmunds with their two grandchildren.

“I would rather fundraise than holiday, and I’m always thinking of what’s coming up next and finding new games,” she said.

For example, over the May Day bank holiday weekend the fundraising flower festival at Martham Methodist church, linked with the village’s scarecrow weekend, is themed around numbers. Glenda’s display centres around Psalm 23 – and Deal or No Deal. “There are 23 boxes in the TV show,” she explains. Other displays will riff on themes of K9, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Goldilocks and the Three Bears…

With seven generations of history behind her, a heart and talent for fundraising, and at least £100,000 raised for good causes, it all adds up to good news for Rollesby and way beyond.

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