Duke & Duchess of Cambridge declare Jimmy’s open

[ 0 ] December 1, 2012

A cold, wet day in November was considerably warmed for the guests of Jimmy’s when our new centre was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

As well as the official opening, the couple had requested that they meet as many guests as possible – and we didn’t disappoint. Dozens of current and former guests joined us for the day making it a hugely memorable event.

On arrival the Duke and Duchess were welcomed by CEO Henry, and learned about the history of Jimmy’s – and we learned that they were very familiar with the story of Jimmy Dilley that inspired us. They also met with volunteers Tessa and Lyn and were impressed to learn that we have an army of over 200 people who so readily give their time to Jimmy’s.

They next visited the Knights Room where they received a lesson in healthy eating from Jimmy’s staff Dan and Claire, a jar of biscuits baked by guest Sheldon and a kiss from guest Carmelo. They also met with volunteer Jenny Knights – widow of long-serving volunteer Noel after whom the room was named.

Then it was up two flights of stairs for a private meeting with three guests. Robert and the Duke swapped stories about life in the armed forces, and former jockey Paul found lots in common with the couple who are so closely connected with the riding world. Pete introduced Bali, his furry companion of many years and the Duke and Duchess had a long talk with him about the issues and impacts of homelessness.

After the peace of the bedrooms the couple met many guests in our lounge. They learned about creative writing from Leon, Kaz and Nigel, and Christine and Fraser showed how to make sparkly Christmas decorations and gave the Duchess a crystal snowflake handmade by Jimmy’s guests. Former guests Colin and Mark told them how life had moved on for both of them since leaving Jimmy’s – they both now live at Emmaus Cambridge and it was a great pleasure for us to welcome them back.

Also with us were former guests and others who have experienced homelessness and are now part of Cambridge Link-Up, the service user led group chaired by Jimmy’s own Emma. They were especially inspired by how the group use their experiences to lobby for change at the highest levels in government.

Current guest John told the Duke that he’d call him Wills rather than the ‘Prince of Cambridge’ and then gave a brief account of life at Jimmy’s.

Order was called and after thanks from chair Jane Mann, the couple unveiled a beautiful commemorative glass artwork created for Jimmy’s by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshops in Cambridge.

The event was rounded off with a parting gift from former guest Twigg who painted them an ‘out there’ piece of abstract art.

A fantastic day was had by all and our special thanks go to all of our current and former guests who made it so special for Jimmy’s. And also special thanks to Kaya, Georgia and Emily from Hills Road Sixth Form College who spent the day with us getting miles of video coverage, and thanks to Phil Mynott for his photography.

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