Zumba class for all supports Southwick St John Ambulance roof appeal

A Southwick Zumba instructor is planning an online dance class to help raise money for the St John Ambulance roof appeal.

Jo Gibson, who runs Zumba With Jo, wanted to help ‘a valued part of the community’, knowing the first aid charity’s Southwick unit needs to find £5,000 by the end of March.

That will bring the total raised so far to £25,000, with an additional £30,000 needed by the end of the year to complete the essential work needed to save the unit from closure.

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Jo took up Zumba ten years ago at the age of 43 because she found the gym boring and wanted a fun way to get fit. Having been hooked after two lessons, she especially wants to encourage everyone aged over 40 to give it a go.

Jo’s dance fitness fundraiser on Zoom will be a 45-minute Zumba Gold class, featuring Latin music and easy-to-follow routines, suitable for all, including beginners and active seniors.

It will be run on Saturday, March 20, at 4pm. Use the meeting ID 815 1804 8975 and passcode 100223, and ‘donate what you can’ at uk.gofundme.com/f/st-john-ambulance-southwick-unit-new-roof.

Jo said: “My only connection is that I am a resident of Southwick, and St John Ambulance is a valued part of the community here. When I heard they had to raise so much money by the end of September, I felt motivated to do what I could to help.

“They have £20,000 and need another £5,000 by the end of March – with the balance to do the roof by the end of September. The Zoom fundraiser on March 20 is to help get that £5,000.

Tim Loughton with St John Ambulance volunteers in Southwick

“I am also meeting with them to organise another outdoor event later in the year, which will be a collaboration of local dance fitness instructors joining together to host a live dance fitness event, which will be really exciting.”

In November, it was announced the charity’s Shoreham site, in Ham Road, would be closed due to financial difficulties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the race was on to save the Southwick site and a fundraising campaign, led by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, was launched as the building in The Twitten needed a new roof.

An anonymous donor agreed to match fund £10,000, if the community could raise the £15,000 needed for the first phase, and a further £8,000 was then pledged by other generous donors.

Zumba instructor Jo Gibson is running an online dance class to raise money for the St John Ambulance unit in Southwick

The final target for the work will be £55,000 and the team launched its appeal on GoFundMe last month to keep the momentum going.

Peter Bennett said: “All of us will have come across St John Ambulance at some stage, either as the reassuring presence at major events looking out for us, or perhaps taking up one of their training courses in all aspects of first aid, or perhaps even as a cadet and volunteer.

“What we probably have not appreciated is the vital role they have been playing during the pandemic. Nationally, SJA has so far recruited and trained over 25,400 volunteers to help the vaccination effort and are administering jabs in some of the mass vaccination centres such as the Brighton Centre and Excel.

“Locally, Sussex SJA has been training people every weekend at the Amex and so far put over 800 of those volunteers into action whilst also providing over 13,500 hours of cover onwards at Brighton, Haywards Heath and Worthing Hospitals. And of course, they have backed up the ambulance service, which has been under so much pressure with Covid as well.

“Running such a huge organisation as SJA takes a lot of money and of course this year with no fundraising possible or events to attend, that source of funds has all but dried up, except for grants from the Government.

“As a result, the management of the charity has had to take some very tough decisions to cut costs and that involves giving up at least 115 of their properties.

“That was to include the Southwick HQ in The Twitten until some of us stepped in and were able to secure a reprieve but there is a catch. The catch is that the building urgently needs a new roof and the cost has been put at £55,000.”