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New lease of life for life-saving telephone boxes

Aug 9, 2018

Three derelict telephone boxes located in villages in the Borough of Taunton Deane have been given a new lease of life – with the installation of some smart new defibrillators. The kiosks, which had seen better days, have now been lovingly restored to their former glory by volunteers in the Parish of Creech St Michael.

Chairman of the Parish Council and volunteer caretaker of the defibrillator located in Creech Heathfield, Simon Hutchings, said: “Our first defibrillator was located in the village pub, but there wasn’t 24-hour access – if the pub was closed the defibrillator was no longer accessible. So it seemed like the perfect solution – to renovate the lovely old telephone boxes and give them a practical use at the same time. We’d also like to say a big thank you for the technical guidance and expertise we have received throughout this whole process from Heartstart Somerset, which is the scheme co-ordinated by the British Heart Foundation to teach members of the public the skills required in a life-threatening emergency.”

The defibrillator project cost the villages of Creech St Michael, Creech Heathfield and Ham in the region of £7,700 and the Parish Council raised funds by applying for a grant from the Borough Council’s Defibrillator Fund, managed by Somerset Community Foundation, as well as holding local fundraising events such as the annual Party in the Park.

Maggie Machin, volunteer caretaker of the telephone box in Ham, added: “We’ve worked hard to raise the funds to restore the telephone boxes, and we were very lucky that a professional artist happened to be staying with a friend in the village for a few days and offered to paint the outside of the phone box. A lot of cyclists pass through the village and a defibrillator saves lives: a bright red telephone box in the centre of the village is very easy to spot! The third kiosk, in Creech St Michael, is looked after by Nathaniel and Rowan Finch, overseen by their Mum, Dee.”

The Taunton Deane Borough Council Defibrillator Fund has awarded grants totalling over £11,000 to the villages of Corfe (£1,000), Creech St Michael, Creech Heathfield and Ham (£1,000), Durston (£756), Otterford (£958), Pitminster (£1,000), Ruishton and Thornfalcon (£1,000), Sampford Arundel (£1,000), Stoke St Mary (£1,000), West Hatch (£576), and West Monkton (£1,000) as well as to Taunton Theatre Association Ltd. (£960) and the Wellington & District Sports Federation (£800).

Cllr Jane Warmington, Executive Councillor for Community Leadership at TDBC, said: “It is reassuring that another village has been supported to install a defibrillator which could help save lives and provide some reassurance for local residents. A newly painted old red telephone box makes the perfect home for it!”

Andy Ridgewell, Programmes Manager at Somerset Community Foundation continued: “Somerset Community Foundation awards many grants for projects in rural communities, addressing issues such as limited public transport, the provision of opportunities for young people, and the upkeep of village halls and community spaces. The TDBC Defibrillator Fund has allowed us to extend this support to the provision of important emergency equipment across the Borough. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge that the Somerset Masonic Fund contributed 10% of the funding across all of these defibrillator grants.”

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