St Albans charity Earthworks flying high a year after arson attack

PUBLISHED: 06:52 24 September 2012

Earthworks, St Albans.  Second arson this year.  Project leader Phil Maitland outside the damaged hut.

Earthworks, St Albans. Second arson this year. Project leader Phil Maitland outside the damaged hut.

IT HAS been a year since the devastating arson attack which came close to closing a charity for good.

But Earthworks, the Highfield Park based charity for people with learning difficulties in St Albans, has fought back and is now heading for a bright future.

Earthworks lost everything in the Saturday night attack, its headquarters, vital gardening tools and even the handicrafts it makes and sells.

Said project leader Phil Maitland. “We came very close to closing down.”

But it was the astonishing level of support from their friends, the community and the staff themselves which pulled Earthworks back from the brink.

Phil went on: “The morning afterwards were were staring at a burnt-out shell and a pile of rubble which was all that was left of years of hard work and effort.

“It was heartbreaking and at first we couldn’t see how we could survive.”

But people piled in to help, St Albans district council provided emergency nearby accommodation at the old CMS site and Leavesden-based Warner Brothers film company stepped in with vital help.

One of the company’s employees spotted the story and pictures in the Herts Ad and moved in immediately to clear the site of burnt materials and rubble and also delivered a Portacabin.

Phil said: “We would not have survived without Warner Brothers, they were magnificent.”

Earthworks was only closed for two weeks before things were back to some sort of normality and service users were returning from all over the county.

Since then the charity has been building support and planning for a new, stronger and more secure HQ.

Although it has been difficult for supporters to visit the site, the monthly Farmers’ Market carried on as usual in St Albans city centre selling produce and handicrafts.

Phil added: “We feel humbled by the generosity and support of everyone in St Albans and they fact they they didn’t give up on us.

“The service users have been patient and fantastic during this very difficult time and I would like to pay tribute to the team, Steve Pike, Bianca Badham and Sarah Panter, together with the office support from Alex McCain and Fiona Gulliver.”

Earthworks is planning a big open day next year as a thank you to all supporters when the new headquarters building is ready.

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