VIDEO: Founder of Auntie Val’s thanks community for answering desperate plea

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The founder of an award-winning company has thanked the community for the ‘generous donations’ that enabled her to continue operating her business.

In October 2017, Val Challis, founder of Auntie Val’s Limited which employs people with disabilities, said they may be forced to close unless they could raise more than £10,000 to help cover the cost of a label machine.

Delighted with the new equipment for use in the packing department, Auntie Val, (Val Challis), front left, with her Jammy Dodges, including husband Andy Challis, Dean Andrrews, Jake Blackman, James West, Tracy Money, and Laura Merahie

Delighted with the new equipment for use in the packing department, Auntie Val, (Val Challis), front left, with her Jammy Dodges, including husband Andy Challis, Dean Andrrews, Jake Blackman, James West, Tracy Money, and Laura Merahie

The labels would be put onto the jars of marmalade and chutney made by the team of disabled people – known as the Jammy Dodgers – before they were shipped out to hotels and shops.

Val said: “A big thank you from everyone at Auntie Val’s to those companies and individuals who have helped us over the past few months following our appeal in the West Sussex County Times in late 2017.

“We have been fortunate to receive generous donations from members of the community, local groups, our fundraising team and successful funding bids from the Sussex Community Foundation, and the Community Initiative Fund.

“Your support has enabled us to buy a large piece of essential equipment to help facilitate the Jammy Dodgers to perform the labelling with ease of our 28g jars. We are especially grateful to Fit Well and Connected and the Big Lottery Fund for a successful bid that has allowed us to replace our outdated computer equipment and software, opening up even more opportunities for training and education.

“To date, with our help, many people with disabilities have found employment with local employers.

“This grant will mean that we can teach new skills and obtain mainstream qualifications for those we support, enabling us to offer accredited qualifications and therefore improve employability.”

Auntie Val’s Limited managed to raise more than £23,000 in the space but Val’s husband Andy says they still require support to meet the growing demands of the training they provide.

He said: “During the next few months we will be looking toward sponsorship from both big and small companies or individuals to raise funds to support our disabled people.

“If you think you or your business could help us you can contact us via our website www.auntievals.com or call 01903 746748.”

Auntie Val’s Limited became a not-for-profit Community Interest Company in 2015 by providing a number of disabled people with paid work.

It has won a number of awards for its valuable work, including the West Sussex County Times Charity of the Year 2016.

Speaking to this newspaper in October, Sharon Baker – whose daughter is employed by Auntie Val’s – believed it had changed her daughter’s life.

She said: “She used to spend all her time in her room and just couldn’t get on with university.

“I tried looking for help but it wasn’t until I called Auntie Val’s that we got a solution. I expected them to say they couldn’t help but they didn’t and they’ve helped her so much.”