How an article in the Cheltenham Post changed the life of a local army veteran

Matthew James, centre, with the volunteers who have helped change his life

Readers of a free newspaper have rallied to help an army veteran who was struggling to live in his house while suffering from multiple Sclerosis.

Matthew James’s maisonette in Cheltenham has been transformed after local businesses and readers of the Cheltenham Post rallied together following an article in the free title.

The Post first featured Matthew’s story in August last year, which prompted loca man Mark Hopkins to get involved and become what the paper described as the driving force behind making change happen.

Local businesses, along with the Armed Forces Charity SSAFA all worked together.

Last month, the paper told readers: “Soon after we published Matthew’s plight, SSAFA, The Armed Forces charity, contacted us and we passed on Matthew’s details.

“They visited Matthew and assessed his situation, then purchased him a new mobility scooter and reclining chair.

“Mark got involved after reading about Matthew, having known him for many years but not realising he needed the assistance. Mark has been the driving force behind the work.”

Local readers helped clean out the maisonette while local businesses chipped in to provide the equipment needed to renovate the house. Volunteers then did all the renovation work needed on the house — with local businesses including a hairdressers and a pizza shop providing food to keep the workers fed.

Ruth Luffram, Matthew’s carer, who first made the appeal for help via the Post last summer, said: “This has been amazing from the beginning, I cannot believe how much money has been raised by the Cheltenham Post readers, and the amount of people who have come forward to help has been incredible.

“ The project has been such a success and Matthew now has a property that he can get around safely in, providing him with access that he may need in the future.

“ I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mark Cuzner from Cheltenham Post as without him we could have never have got Matthew’s predicament out to the public, and also to Mark Hopkins our project manager who has been a rock taking the pressure off me and managing everything.

“Mark was incredible, however I cannot thank everyone involved enough. Matthew’s outlook on life has changed as he was not in a very good place at all before. We are truly grateful.”

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

>> See the series so far, here

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