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Fundraiser thanks 'old friends' for Oxfam donations

A fundraiser who has spent her 34th weekend in Sainsbury’s has described the people she sees as ‘like old friends’.

Barbara Walmsley, aged 82, spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday sat in the Providence Place supermarket raising money for Oxfam.

Over the last three decades Barbara has become part of the Maidenhead furniture, and this year she expects to have raised at least £14,000, meaning she will have raised almost £360,000 for the charity through her fasts.

Barbara said: “It was great because lots and lots of people had read the Advertiser, and they would come up to me and I’d say this is my 34th year and they’d say they’d read it in the paper.

“There’s a lot of people who come year after year and they are amazing, they are like old friends.”

When she first started 34 years ago, Barbara actually did fast for her entire supermarket stint, but after a health scare nine years ago she now has a cardboard replica of herself – Boxfam Barbara – who ‘fasts’ on her behalf.

This year, Barbara raised a record amount through donations in-store – £1,328. She felt that the miserable weather meant more people headed indoors into the shop.

She said: “Someone who worked there told me that when the weather’s really bad they don’t go out and do things, they stay inside and do their shopping.

“I know there were Oxjam music festivals on at the same time and I felt so sorry for them, the weather was about as bad as it could be, so I felt like I had to make it up for them.”

After more than three decades of the fast, Barbara hopes that someone may be able to take over so she can have a rest, but insists that she is prepared to carry on for ‘as long as possible’.

She said: “If someone came along and did what I do, and had the same number of sponsors, I would have a rest.

“The trouble is that because its so much money and because the need is so great, if I did stop it would affect a lot of people.

“It’s impossible for me to give up because I would just feel so guilty.”

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