Axminster Carpets: Town unites to help families

PUBLISHED: 11:42 13 March 2013 | UPDATED: 11:42 13 March 2013

Sixth formers Rosie Male (left) and Matilda Board with the college mural.

Sixth formers Rosie Male (left) and Matilda Board with the college mural.

Archant

Church and community leaders back mayor Andrew Moulding’s call for cross-community support network

Axminster stands united in support of the town’s redundant carpet workers and their families.

That was the message from church and community leaders this week as a package of measures was being put together to help those in difficulties.

Plans for a co-ordinated response to the plight of the 200 local workers who lost their jobs when the company called in administrators were backed by town councillors on Monday.

Launching the scheme for a cross-community support network mayor Andrew Moulding said representatives of all the town’s aid organisations would be called to a meeting to discuss how best to help.

“We need to ensure we target the right areas...ensure we do our best for these people and their families,” he said.

His call for a united effort, to avoid duplication, came as local food bank organisers revealed that they had fed one per cent of Axminster’s population last week - and expected that figure to double by this weekend.

But help was needed in all forms, the meeting was told - not just food, but assisting people to find new jobs and offering pastoral care.

Cllr Graham Godbeer said they should be aware of the potential for mental problems – anxiety and depression. People needed to know how to access help, like the Samaritans, 24 hours a day.

Aynsley Jones, manager of the town’s health and wellbeing centre, said that since the carpet factory crisis began demand on their Canned Sunshine foodbank had come from across the region – including Bridport, Lyme Regis, Seaton and Beer, as well as Axminster.

She said they planned to call a closed meeting, on March 21, from 10.30am to 12.30pm at The Guildhall, for ex carpet workers and their families to establish what their most pressing needs are.

The meeting heard a jobs fair is also being planned for late May with the hire of the Guildhall being paid for by the town council.

Meanwhile staff and pupils at The Axe Valley Community College say they stand ready to provide any support that is needed.

Headteacher Martin Smith said: “Like everyone in the community, we are saddened and concerned by the news of job losses at Axminster Carpets. Many of our parents/carers are affected, directly or indirectly, by the situation.

“The college is determined to support the community at this challenging time. We stand ready to provide any support required, and have indicated that this could be in areas such as training, access to IT rooms and general facility use.

“In the short-term, we are keen to support with fund raising efforts to help alleviate families’ financial worries. We have committed to contributing half of next week’s Red Nose Day fund raising to the relief effort. Over the coming week we are encouraging students and staff to contribute items of tinned and dried food towards the Canned Sunshine foodbank.”

Mr Smith said there had been has been a spontaneous show of support from many students.

Two sixth formers, Matilda Board and Rosie Male, collected more than 400 signatures from students and staff who wanted to express their support and gratitude for the company that has always given generously to the college.

They painted an Axminster carpet mural which will be displayed in the hall to show support for the relief efforts.

Mr Smith continued: “Over the years Axminster Carpets has assisted the college with running a minibus and sponsoring events. For the last few years, it has sponsored our students to take part in the annual Dartmoor Classic cycle challenge.

“We would encourage parents who are directly affected by job loss to contact the college to find out if we can assist in any way. Parents may be entitled to free school meals for their children which entitles them not only to free lunches but support with other areas of college such as free music tuition and financial assistance with trips.”

Explaining why she wanted to help Matilda Board, who lives in Colyton, said: “We have grown up being proud of Axminster carpets and its long tradition and association with the town. I am studying A level art and because of my love of art, I suggested we paint the Axminster carpet mural as our way of showing support.”

Rosie Male, who lives in Seaton, said: “We both know people who work at Axminster Carpets. We also have Axminster carpets in our houses.”

* A prayer has been specially written for those who have lost their jobs in Axminster and Buckfast, and also for all those currently affected by unemployment.

Churches in Axminster and the surrounding area have also been appealing for food for affected families.

The Bishop of Exeter, The Rt Rev Michael Langrish, said he was greatly saddened by the news of the job losses.

“I vividly remember attending the 250th anniversary celebrations in Axminster in 2005, when a special carpet was sent up to Her Majesty the Queen,” he said. “There was a sense of great joy that day in the town, and being able to celebrate the generations of fine craftsmanship and design and the hard work of so many people was wonderful. It is a great tragedy that this looks set to be lost now, as the company has gone into administration, and the hundreds of people affected by this are very much in my prayers.

“We are asking all churches in the county to pray for those affected by this – we know that in many cases, several generations of the same family have been affected – and the church is urgently looking to find ways to support them.”

The special prayer is:

Loving Father, you enfold us in your mercy and love.

Hear our prayer for your sons and daughters in Devon who are living with hardship.

We pray for all at this time who are facing an uncertain future;

those who are without employment and especially those who have lost their jobs at Axminster Carpets.

Give courage and comfort to all who are distressed,

And hope to those who find themselves dependent on benefits and charity.

We pray for a future in which all may participate with energy

and share in joy.

Strengthen us to have generous hearts, to carry each other’s burdens and to live in fellowship that finds its foundation in your life, which outpours into your world with costly self-giving love.

We ask this in the name of our crucified and risen Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


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