WHEN Frieda Minns’ younger son became English Schools Hammer Throwing champion and was asked who his coach was, he replied, ‘My mum’.
It was simple really: there was no one else to help so Frieda started going to meetings and studied what she calls “the big throwers from all over the world” and then passed on what she learned to her son.
In the same way if anyone in Sutton Bridge has needed help, practical Frieda set about doing whatever she could, whether raising funds, taking on a committee role or doing practical work.
That has been Frieda’s philosophy for the past 40 years at least, something recognised in the New Year’s honours list when the 81-year-old was awarded an MBE for her services over many years to the community where she lives, in Chestnut Terrace.
“I have enjoyed everything and I have loved being busy,” says Frieda, who had to cut back on some of her commitments after breaking her shoulder and wrist last year. She is now down to making preserves to sell for St Matthew’s Church (about £800 a year) where she is fundraising treasurer, maintaining the church garden and putting on a couple of fundraising bazaars a year.
Frieda arrived in the village as an 18-year-old Land Girl, but was quickly swept off her feet by local man Basil, who died ten years ago. They married and had three sons – John, Paul and Trevor – and there are now 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
Frieda had come from Liverpool and assumed all schools had similar facilities and equipment until her own children were at the Peele School at Long Sutton and she discovered there was just one classroom for each age group and there were lessons she had enjoyed at school that were unavailable to her own youngsters.
“That’s why I got involved in the youth club and teaching the kids things,” explains Frieda. “I really felt there was a need to provide things for people and to make them provide for somebody else and to help other people.”
Frieda was asked to help at the youth club as treasurer and, because she was approached by teenagers asking if their younger siblings could go too, started running the club on three nights for children as young as ten. “Within a month I had 80 members all under 14,” says Frieda, who then had to set about fighting for funding. “We had to raise money for every bit of money to fund items they wanted because they weren’t allowed to use the older children’s equipment and we couldn’t get any funding,” she recalls.
At the same time Frieda was raising money for Holbeach Athletics Club, attended by two of her boys, and for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 she was part of a small committee that organised a parade of floats and bands, an event that went so well it continued for the next 17 years, raising funds for the village hall.
Frieda was a governor of the Peele School as well as Westmere Primary School in Sutton Bridge for 17 years, eventually becoming chairman of both, and was a parish councillor for about 16 years, again acting as chairman towards the end.
About 16 years ago, when numbers at the Peele School had dropped from 800 to 400, Frieda decided there was sufficient space to convert a classroom to a fitness suite, to be used by both pupils and the community. Having consulted former British Olympic shot putter Geoff Capes about what would be needed, Frieda pledged to raise £3,000 in three months with her fundraising bingo sessions and raffles – and finished up with £14,000.
Frieda also raised money for Sutton Bridge village hall, and some of that went on materials when Frieda decided it needed re-decorating, but it was Frieda who single-handedly cleaned and painted the hall.
Then there have been the new year’s eve family parties at the village hall until it was domolished to make way for a new community centre, the bingo sessions and tombolas to raise money for the churches at Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton, and a couple of years helping Meals on Wheels and the St Matthew’s Drive Community Centre. She has seen a little of the ‘high life’ during a two-year stint as South Holland District Council chairman’s consort for her husband’s batchelor cousin David Dewsberry. And in her spare time, she and Basil farmed five acres of land, on top of her husband’s full-time job.
She says simply: “I just enjoyed doing it. If I see a problem, I tackle it. I have just loved being involved in the community and I have helped many old people with their painting and decorating over the years. I do it because I love helping people. I don’t want this sort of recognition, but it’s nice when people in their 50s recognise me from the youth club.”