It was a present like no other...
Back in 1957 the Telegraph and Star’s Old Folks Club were given an anonymous donation of £75 - worth more than £1,500 in today’s values.
The money was posted through the letterbox at The Star’s Kemsley House offices on York Street and the cash was put towards buying wireless licences at £1 each, then required to listen to BBC radio.
This is how it was reported in the Sheffield Telegraph:
“An ordinary large white envelope was dropped unobtrusively into the front office letter box of Kemsley House, Sheffield.
“But when it was opened it was found to contain the largest anonymous donation ever known for the purchase of wireless licences by ‘The Star’ and the ‘Sheffield Teplegraph’ Old Folk’s Fund.
“Inside were the 75 £1 notes, pictured right, with no indication of the donor.
“Whoever left it has for ‘receipt’ the knowledge that the money will be used to bring many hours of pleasure to old people in Sheffield and district who would otherwise have been unable to afford a wireless licence.
“Each year the fund buys about 60 wireless licences for old folks.”
The Star and Telegraph Old Folks fund gave thousands to charity from the 1950s onwards.
Old people were taken on holidays and days out to the coast, having their home redecorated and being given winter fuel allowances and Christmas presents for decades as the Sheffield public and businesses responded to the newspapers’ appeals.
By 1964 600 Christmas boxes were being distributed to old people across South Yorkshire with the Brightside and Carbrook Co-op and Ecclesall Co-op collecting tonnes of fruit, milk, soup, tea and sugar.
By 1966 the number was 800, by 1970 the number had risen to 2,000 and by 1972 it was 3,000.
In the Telegraph and Star Old Folks Fund’s annual report of 1970 it said: “An organisation assisting old people who find themselves without fires or gas or electricity because of unpaid bills have had their grants increased from £100 a time to £150. (nb This at a time when the average weekly wage was around £25)
The report went on to praise the work of Sheffield University students and Sheffield schoolchildren in distributing aid, decorating rooms, providing Christmas lights and taking people on shopping trips.
The fund worked closely with the Star’s On Our Conscience team and the Telegraph’s Make Room For The Old project which highlighted the plight of the old and deprived in the Star’s news pages.
In 1972 the fund also helped with the furnishing of two old folks club lounges, with grants of £500 each for rooms in Greenhill and Parson Cross.
The Old Folks Club continued to support the old and needy throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s and was relaunched in 1997 and continued to help the region’s old people.