Farnham Town Councillor Mike Hodge has presented two cheques for £15,000 each to The Woodlarks Centre and Brightwells Gostrey Centre, which are the charities he supported during his year as the Mayor of Farnham.

More than £28,000 was raised from the Otter Wey community art project which was adopted by Councillor Hodge as his principal fundraising activity.

The project involved local businesses, organisations and individuals sponsoring 44 one-metre tall otters, which were decorated by a mix of professional, amateur and community group artists. During the summer, the otters were displayed along a seven-mile, self-guided trail before finally being auctioned in July at Farnham Castle.

Speaking at the cheque presentation, Councillor Mike Hodge thanked the Lions Club of Farnham who managed much of the project and led on securing sponsorship for the otters. He also thanked artist Jo Aylwin for her ‘inspiration and artistic addition’ and for leading on the artistic side of the project.

Woodlarks is a care home and activity centre for 22 people who have a range of disabilities. Upon receiving the cheque, trustee Simon Farrant thanked everybody involved and said: “It has come as a wonderful surprise to receive such a generous donation and the money will be put to very good use. At Woodlarks, we were thinking of a fundraising project and the idea came when we spoke with Councillor Hodge soon after he became Mayor and the rest is history.

“We have just finished renovating a bungalow in our grounds, which will be used to accommodate two people who are being prepared to leave Woodlarks and live independently. We may put the money towards laying a path to the bungalow or it may help with the purchase of a new minibus. There’s certainly no shortage of projects and every penny helps.”

Speaking on behalf of Brightwells Gostrey Centre, which helps prevent social isolation in older people in Farnham and surrounding areas by providing mental and physical stimulation classes and a freshly cooked lunch, Lucinda Fleming, the Chairman of Trustees said:

“We have now moved to the Memorial Hall so there will be lots of new projects and initiatives which we will be able to put this money towards. We are so thrilled Councillor Hodge chose us as one of his charities and are delighted to receive this cheque.”

On behalf of the Lions Club of Farnham, Keith Harris said: “We started with two objectives – one was to raise money for the charities and one was to create a really good art-based community project. Looking around the town this summer and hearing how much was raised, I think it’s fair to say that we achieved our objectives.”

Speaking after the presentation, Councillor Mike Hodge said: “It was a pleasure to present such a large sum of money to The Woodlarks Centre and Brightwells Gostrey Centre but I realise that without the support of a great many people, it would not have been possible. I would like to give my sincere thanks to the Lions Club of Farnham, Jo Aylwin, Farnham South Street Trust and theFarnham Institutecharities for their support.

“I would also like to thank the sponsors, the artists, everybody who took part in the walking trail and all those people who bid for an otter. Finally, I would like to thank the staff and volunteers at The Woodlarks Centre and Brightwells Gostrey Centre for doing such a wonderful job and for making such a positive difference to so many people.”

Money raised by the Otter Wey project was boosted by the generosity of people who attended the Mayor’s Civic Service and the Civic Christmas Carol Service.

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