In May 2015, Royal Navy veteran Claire Wright and Army veteran Chris Squires established Trafford Veterans, a group dedicated to holding peer support activities in Trafford. Before their formation, the local community of Armed Forces and emergency service veterans and their families had no peer-organised, dedicated support in their area. Now, Trafford’s veterans have access to information, advice and guidance, as well as a safe space at BizSpace Altrincham to call into and join like-minded individuals who have also served.
“The aim is to grow! We want to keep providing essential care and support for our veterans across Trafford. We are always looking to link up with other businesses with mutual interest and are hoping to secure new business sponsors going forwards to help with funding our work.”
Before lockdown, the group organised a monthly breakfast event, walking football team, allotment project, model-making and craft group, coffee mornings and food shares, community drop-ins and Forces war records. They also have a 17-seater minibus, enabling the group to take trips together across the country and allowing veterans who might not otherwise have the chance to get out and about.
Members of Trafford Veterans: WWII veterans then and now, Tommy, Lewis and Frank.
When the pandemic hit, the group had to pause its activities. Now, Claire and her volunteers provide individual weekly food drops and welfare checks to elderly veterans who have been hard hit by the lockdown and now find it difficult to get out of the house. Trafford Veterans are also carrying out support through Facebook and organise weekly quizzes via email for those with access to the Internet. To continue raising funds, they are even selling military kit, camping gear and kids toys. You can see more of their vital work in this story with Forces News.
Claire and Chris are an inspiration to many, but what inspires them? “We have both served in HM Forces and knowing that we have helped other veterans by sharing our own experiences is what drives us,” said Claire. Helping other veterans is also in Claire’s blood – “My great-grandfather was the founder of the Gallantry Medal League, and in between the two World Wars, he helped soldiers into housing and employment through his voluntary work.”
While the Trafford Veterans has been established for five years, Claire recently decided to dedicate herself to the group full-time and registered the hub as a Community Interest Company. That’s what led the group to join BizSpace in September 2020. Claire said “We were looking for a shop or space to start our project. We were impressed with the facilities and the feel of the place [at BizSpace]. It has so much potential and offers so much that you would not get elsewhere – we have plans to utilise the meeting and board rooms to hold courses such as mental health first aid, mindfulness and other topics which will upskill our veteran and volunteers.”
Theo, the club's mascot, making himself at home at BizSpace Altrincham.
“Our experience so far is really positive. We have already made good links with the business next door, and the receptionist, manager and maintenance team have all been really friendly and helpful.”
If you are veteran in Manchester looking for support, advice or the company of those who have also served, Trafford Veterans is there for you. And remember – if you want to partner with Claire, Chris and their team, have an idea that could help them out or would like to sponsor Trafford Veterans, they are always on the lookout to connect! The hub’s website goes live this week and you can keep up with their progress on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.