Serial runner raises the roof for Walthamstow homeless charity
Bill Foster is a dedicated volunteer, fundraiser and serial runner who just can’t sit still. One race is not enough for him. He’s taken on seven races, meaning he will run more than 80 miles, in a bid to raise money to provide shelter for homeless people in the borough of Waltham Forest, based in Walthamstow, East London.
Since September Bill has completed the Oxford Half Marathon and London’s Run to the Beat Half Marathon. Between now and next spring, the restless fundraiser will be completing a further five races: the Greenwich Park 10k, a London Santa Run, the Garmin Race your Pace Half Marathon, the Bath Half, culminating in the Brighton Marathon in April.
His self-appointed ‘Seven races 4Stow’ challenge will see him sweating it out to raise funds crucial to the running of Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelters (FCENS) where he volunteers. Based in Waltham Forest, FCENS is a collaboration of several local partner churches meeting the need of those sleeping rough in the borough during the winter months.
Supporting independent lives away from the streets
The night shelters aim to transform the lives of their beneficiaries in some small way by giving a helping hand at a difficult time of year. Where possible, the charity strives to help them move away from a life on the streets, towards one that is more independent and sustainable.
The initiative sees several local partner churches, across the borough, donate their premises and provide volunteers, food and bedding. This offers the charity’s guests somewhere to sleep for one night per week during the harsh winter months.
Although the charity receives food donations and free use of church halls, urgent funds are needed to support their volunteer activities. Volunteers like Bill are vital to the running of the hostel – their help means the charity can offer professional assistance to all who walk through their doors.
‘Homelessness was all around me’
According to the charity, the number of beneficiaries is on the increase. They estimate that approximately 60 per cent of their guests are from Eastern Europe. However, an increasing percentage are British or Irish. FCENS stresses that many of these individuals have mental health issues, placing them at a disadvantage. Sleeping rough, many homeless people often find themselves in a vulnerable position, as Bill testifies.
Explaining the motivation behind his volunteering Bill said: “I had already decided I wanted to get involved with the Night Shelter after I saw a homeless man being picked on by some local kids and realised that homelessness was all around me but I didn't see it or pay attention.”
Spreading the word
Bill has raised an incredible £660 so far. So what tips does he have for like-minded fundraisers? He said: “Keep reminding people what you are doing, often people will intend to sponsor you but forget until you remind them. Finally, plan your strategy, don't go on and on about the fundraising - people will get bored of you, but keep promoting it more and more the closer you get to the event.”
Using iPhone app to track donations
Bill found the MyDonate fundraising page easy to use and recommended the iPhone app. He said: “The charity use MyDonate because they get all the money raised, and every penny counts. It was easy to setup my fundraising page and the iPhone app lets me keep track of donations and easily share my link via email and social media.”
Praising Bill’s fundraising efforts, Corinna Creasy, a trustee for FCENS, said: “I would like to say on behalf of FCENS that it is the support of volunteers like Bill that make it possible for shelter to be offered.”
Bill Foster’s fundraising page
Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter website