Van donated to Suffolk charity on live TV was 'heap of rust'
PUBLISHED: 11:30 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:59 08 February 2019
A mental health charity's dream donation became an "embarrassing nightmare" after a van they were given on live TV turned out to be a "knackered old rust bucket".
Millie Corke, 32, who founded the Worry Tree Cafe in Framlingham, said she was thrilled when Channel 5’s Do The Right Thing presented her with a van to take the charity’s work out on the road.
But the charity’s joy was short lived after an inspection of the 22-year-old vehicle revealed it was riddled with rust and stood no chance of passing its MOT.
Miss Corke said the disappointment had hit everyone at The Worry Tree Cafe hard.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” she said.
“We’d been really looking forward to starting the charity’s next journey with the Worry Wagon, visiting schools and rural communities, but now it’s back to the drawing board – what can we do?”
The TV show, which is presented by Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Langsford and Esther Rantzen includes consumer affairs, campaigns and a worthy cause to support each week.
The first episode of series two, which aired live from a theatre in London on January 6, saw businessman and ‘Undercover Millionaire’ Terry George donate the van to support the charity’s work.
The show’s organisers said the van was sourced and adapted in “good faith” by Mr George, who had agreed to cover the cost of any work so the charity are “completely happy with it”.
“However, if the Worry Tree Cafe decides it no longer wants to keep it, Terry is of course willing to donate the cost of the van to the charity,” a spokesman for the show added.
Miss Corke’s father, Nick Corke, who also appeared on the show, said he was pleased Mr George had now agreed to donate the money, as the vehicle was “corroded beyond economical repair”.
“We don’t want to appear ungrateful, but for a small charity to take on such a liability would be stupid and irresponsible, and not the best use of the charity’s funds,” he added.
“Apart from that we have a duty of care to our volunteers and those who would use the wagon for a private chat while it is out and about.”
Miss Corke founded The Worry Tree Cafe following three suicide attempts in 2016 to help prevent others from feeling alone as she had done during her experiences with depression.
With weekly drop-ins at Mills Meadow Day Care Centre in Fore Street, the charity offers a chance for those facing mental health challenges to talk to like minded people. It has grown to host sessions in Leiston and counts Suffolk singer Ed Sheeran among its patrons.
Charity leaders had already been fundraising for a “Worry Wagon” when the show’s organisers got in touch late last year.
TV crew visited Framlingham to film the volunteers at the Worry Tree and then Miss Corke attended the live show on January 6, when she and colleague Katrina Clarke-Abbott were interviewed by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford.
The pair were then shown a surprise video of Mr George saying how he had been inspired by The Worry Tree Café and wanted to give them the van for their Worry Wagon.
“Let me tell you, I’m going to make that happen,” he said.
Miss Corke was overjoyed to see the van driven into the studio with her dad in the back.
She said the donation was like “being given the one thing you want most for your birthday but it being broken the next day”.
The van’s problems became clear soon after its delivery when Mr Corke took it to get a spare key cut at a nearby garage and was offered a free health check on the vehicle.
The inspection revealed urgent work was needed on the brakes, wheels and exhaust system and Mr Corke was told the van would not pass its next MOT.
The vehicle’s MOT history showed it was 22 years old and had needed to retake several previous failed tests.
Mr Corke, who also runs Hour Community in Framlingham, said the vehicle’s problems meant the charity’s dreams of taking the Worry Tree Cafe on the road had been put on hold while fundraising resumed.
“I don’t believe for a moment that anyone at the production company or Terry George set out to give us a knackered vehicle, but perhaps a little more thought could and should have gone into what they did give us,” he said.
“What should have been a time for celebration has sadly turned into an embarrassing nightmare.”
What is the Worry Tree Cafe?
The Worry Tree Cafe has been praised for its role in rural Suffolk’s mental health support network.
Its weekly sessions are open to anyone suffering with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges, as well as those just looking for a cup of tea and a chat without being judged.
The charity has the backing of Suffolk health and care organisations. Singer Ed Sheeran, who grew up in Framlingham, said he was “happy to support Amelia’s vision” after being made patron of the charity.
As well as offering a place to meet and talk, the charity also hosts projects in gardening, music and art as well as talks, outings and workshops.
Up to 40 guests aged 15-85 attend the sessions, which take place at Mills Meadow Day Care Centre in Framlingham and Meadow Children’s Centre in Leiston.
Visit @TheWorryTreeCafe on Facebook for more information, including how to donate towards the van fund.