Local Charity Director Pays Warm Tribute to Tony Benn

He was patron of Staying First, part of Shepherd's Bush Housing Group

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Tony Benn at Staying First's 25th anniversary

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A warm tribute has been paid to veteran politician Tony Benn, who died on March 14 at the age of 88, by Graham Raine, director of Staying First, a charity which was part of Shepherd's Bush Housing Group.

He says Mr Benn had a long association with the charity and became its patron in 2005.

He says: " Tony Benn was our patron at Staying First, a charity which helps people stay in their homes when they might otherwise be forced to leave.

" Staying First began an association with Tony Benn in the late nineties when he had work carried out to his home when his wife Caroline became ill with cancer.

" He knew that when someone receives devastating news about an illness, the reassurance of knowing you will be able to stay in your own home for as long as possible can be very comforting. It can make such a big difference to both the individual and to the people around them.  

" In 2005 we asked Tony if he would become our patron. He agreed to do this and we were extremely honoured as he had many, many other commitments. 

" During his time as our patron, he headed up a funding campaign for us. As an expanding charity, his high profile, energetic presence was very valuable. It played an important part in us becoming the charity we are today, offering support and services across west London to thousands of people every year.

" He was a great champion of our work which came from the personal belief and commitment to what we do.   He took the time to come into our offices in Ladbroke Grove, west London, and individually spoke to all our staff about the work they did. He was genuinely interested.

" He was particularly passionate about our work around housing advice and disabled facility adaptations. This work helps people stay in their homes when circumstances might otherwise force them out.  

" He was extremely interested in our work and showed great empathy with the staff.   A lasting memory of mine will be the fact that when arranging anything with Tony he invariably answered his phone, consulted his diary and arranged it there and then. Always but always would he ring you back and answer any emails himself.

" Many of the staff at Staying First have met him and hold him in the highest possible regard.   He will also be missed by staff at Shepherd's Bush Housing Group of which we are part. Tony was a west Londoner and many of his family also live in west London.

" Many of us are familiar with his campaigning on major issues and all of us know of the part he has played in modern politics. His work with charities like us may be less well known but leaves a powerful legacy.  

" We were very sorry to hear of his death. It is clear from reading the tributes from this family that they took comfort that he died at his west London home, surrounded by them.  

" He was guest speaker at both our 20th and 25th anniversary celebrations at which he is pictured above. It is our 30th anniversary this year so we will be remembering him as the year goes on.  

" We are proud that Tony is part of our history and we are a small part of his.  We will miss him greatly."

Mr Benn died at home after spending a month being treated in Charing Cross Hospital. When he left, his family sent a message of thanks, saying: " "The Benn family would like to express its heartfelt thanks to all the NHS staff at Charing Cross Hospital for their outstanding care, and to the many people who have sent kind of concern and support."

 

March 17, 2014