Dereham hero 55 years on still raising money for animal charities

May 14, 2019

Local Dereham hero, Shirley Ramm has raised thousands of pounds for a whole host of charities. As Shirley explained, she cannot bear to see animals suffering and will do everything to ensure that abandoned or ill treated pets receive the care and treatment that they need. She says, “People domesticated animals for their own pleasure and for work and therefore people have a responsibility to look after them.”

Shirley started her voluntary work when her son was just two years of age. She wanted her children to grow up sharing the same ideals of compassion and care for animals and so, when her son was just two years old, she set out to raise funds for various animal charities. She is now a well-established and much loved figure, with her stall in Nelson’s Place, every Tuesday and Friday, “weather permitting”.

Shirley (centre of picture) on her charity stall in Dereham together with husband Richard in the background

Shirley’s stall sells a range of different items to support the group such as home-made jams, marmalade, chutneys and self-grown items from her allotment such as broad beans, gooseberries and salad onions. She even makes pet treats for local dogs who visit her stall with their owners.

Some of Shirley’s home made produce

The local resident first started her charity work with the UK’s largest feline charity, The Cats Protection League, where she would help out regularly and support them. Further on down the line, one of her customers informed her about Redwings Horse Sanctuary, so she started to help them too.

Along with these two charities, Shirley started some more charity work supporting Donkey Sanctuaries, including helping donkeys abroad. She set up a system of a £2 donation from the public once a month to assist these causes.

Shirley now raises funds for the Animal Rescue Norfolk charity and is one of the main sources of funding for this charity which aims to alleviate animal suffering by paying for specialist veterinary treatment. Sometimes the charity pays all of the cost, sometimes only part of it, depending on the circumstances.

These animals are referred by local vets and only when the vet is certain the treatment is required and will be beneficial and there is no owner or the owner does not have the means to meet bills which can be in excess of £600-£700. Alison Grant, the charity spokesperson, commented, “It could be heart-rending for someone if they were unable to provide the treatment their pet needed.”

Most recently, the group has paid for a specialist orthopaedic surgeon for one animal and funded £500 for surgery required to a dog’s back.

Alison said, “If it wasn’t for Shirley the charity may have had to cease operations by now and we certainly would not have been able to help these poor animals in need of treatment.” She adds, “I am extremely grateful to Shirley and also her customers who buy some of her lovely produce and stop for a chat.”

Our reporter interviewing Shirley about her charitable work

Needless to say this has become a main priority in Shirley’s life, Shirley said “All I want to do is raise money for animal charities.” Shirley points out the difficulty in animals showing the severity of their illness when they don’t feel well, she continued, “One of the main reasons I raise money for animals is because when an animal is ill they can’t let you know like humans can, and people need to recognise this.”

Shirley is also a member of the Dereham Theatre Society and, when she is on her stall, she likes to entertain people with a smile and a joke. She loves to make people laugh. She even hammed it up in the recent highly successful production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and brought the house down with her antics as a slightly inebriated violin player.

Thanks to her work over the years, Shirley has met thousands of people, many of whom have a story to tell or a problem that they want to share and no doubt she has been a shoulder to cry on too. It’s people like Shirley with their kindness and generous nature that make Dereham the caring community that it is.

Shirley would like to say a big thank you to her customers and to the brilliant staff at Iceland and Hughes Electrical for their continued support with her fundraising.

Main story by reporter Paris Larham

Photography by Maisie McDermott