Dame Julie Walters' support means Chichester will have its own domestic abuse support centre
A domestic abuse charity is set to open a new drop-in service in Chichester.
My Sisters' House, which has a centre in Bognor Regis, will now also 'have a presence in the Chichester area' after successfully negotiating for a vacant property, in Crane Street, with the district council.
The charity's founder, Julie Budge, said this was only made possible by the £100k funding boost from Dame Julie Walters' Marks & Spencer Christmas advert voiceover.
"She [Dame Julie] wanted us to make a difference, to do something different and support us as she knew the pandemic would cause us a huge upsurge in clients," Ms Budge said.
"We have seen a 300 per cent increase in clients. We went from about 35 on average in a month, before the pandemic, to 120 in a month that we’re supporting in a month now.
"We’re much bigger than we’ve ever been. Pre-pandemic, we employed ten staff and we now employ 21."
The new drop-in service will not be officially open until mid-September, with the property in need of refurbishment.
During this bank holiday weekend, volunteers will hold a table-top sale to raise funds.
Ms Budge added: “We are looking for Chichester area volunteers to help run the service.
"We are looking for new partnerships and people to donate any funds to help us continue it going. We need to raise £400,000 a year to keep the centre going.
"We have rent covered by Julie Walters money but we still need to completely refurb it."
The charity's founder said it was 'absolutely crucial' to be able to provide support to Chichester residents locally.
"We know that women need to access our service in the pandemic after the increase in domestic abuse," Julie said. "It’s even more important now.
"There are poverty and mental health issues too.
"We know having to get the train or a bus from Chichester to Bognor has its problems when you can’t afford to feed your children.
"Us having a presence in Chichester is just going to be amazing.
"It’s exiting times and we’re really looking forward to forming new partnerships."