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London and Slough Run's founder reflects on charity's history ahead of Slough Sleepout for the Homeless

As the London and Slough Run’s Sleepout for the Homeless fundraiser approaches next month, Phyllis Wallbank MBE has reflected on what inspired her to start the charity.

In 1984, Phyllis, who lived in Dorney and her sister, who came to visit from Switzerland, treated themselves to a trip to see a musical in London.

When they came out after the show, Phyllis says she and her sister were ‘very perturbed’ to see a man lying in a cardboard box for the night.

Phyllis, who is now 100-years-old, went back to London to bring the man a hot drink and something to eat.

She was inspired to do more and went back to London to offer more food to London’s homeless people and started enlisting the help of fellow members of the Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Peace in Burnham.

“There were some who had no money, no friends and were on the street because they had nowhere else to go. Terrible,” said Phyllis from her care home in West Drayton.

The Strand in London was the run’s first distribution point, but as volunteers drove around the city looking for homeless people in need, more points were set up.

“What’s important to note is that love doesn’t know any shape. It isn’t content with one religion or one country, love flows,” said Phyllis.

After 13 years, Phyllis found it difficult to continue travelling to London due to illness and, with the help of Dr Douglas Denny, found out where help was needed in Slough.

Phyllis founded and took charge of Slough Run in 1997 while Basil Potter MBE took over the London division.

She was honoured by the Queen with an MBE in 1996 for her hard work and her family were invited to have lunch at Kensington Palace with The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

Since then the charity has grown and has run several fundraising events including an auction of paintings by homeless service users and the annual Sleepout for the Homeless, by far its biggest event.

Participants in the sleepout, which has doubled in numbers every year, raise money by spending the night outdoors with some blankets and a cardboard box, after enjoying some food and music.

This year’s fourth annual event will be held on Saturday, November 24 at St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar School in Langley.

Money raised from the Sleepout is vital to the running of the charity’s winter night shelter.

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