‘Community champions’ in Sidford praised for saving pre-school as they prepare to stand down

Byes Pre-School children are pictured with chairman Holly Spicer, Forestry School Leader Bea Bennett

Byes Pre-School children are pictured with chairman Holly Spicer, Forestry School Leader Bea Bennett, play assistants Jane Cooper and Helena Russell and Wildlife Garden manager Helen Harms. Ref shs 5941-45-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Two volunteers who worked tirelessly to turn around the fortunes of a playgroup are to hand over the reins now it is thriving.

Chairman of The Byes Pre-school Holly Spicer and treasurer Helen Harms have been credited for securing the future of the group that had run into ‘difficulties’ before they took it on.

Just two years ago, Sidford Playgroup – as it was then known – had just four children to four members of staff and was facing financial trouble.

Now there is a waiting list for places and a team of eight people overseeing the running of the pre-school that is based in Sidford Social Hall.

Holly and Helen no longer have pre-school aged children, so are ready to hand things over to the ‘fantastic’ team, who they say will carry on in their tradition.

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Committee member and parent Charlotte Forrer has issued a public thank-you to the pair, who she says have been ‘amazing community champions’.

Charlotte said: “The story of how they took on the challenge of changing an outdated and financially troubled playgroup and turned its fortunes around is quite impressive. It was running for decades as Sidford Playgroup, which was just a parent-run thing that slowly evolved and then they had a run of bad luck - they were in financial difficulties and the committee disintegrated.

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“Holly and Helen had children of their own and thought ‘we either volunteer or it shuts down’. They basically had to build it from the beginning. They were up all night for weeks writing all the documents. They had no experience, but they set to and got funding and rebranded it as a pre-school. They have just done an amazing job.

“What it is now is all Holly and Helen. Everyone is very happy and it’s a really thriving community hub.”

Holly - who is also a paramedic - said she took on the role as chairman because no-one else was willing at the time.

She said: “The parents and staff there are fantastic - they will be carrying on the tradition that Helen and I started.”

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