Meet Ken Townsley. The 71 year old is a former airline baggage handler from Blackpool, who took the news of redundancy in the late sixties as an opportunity. With his payoff, he set up his own holiday business, Trident Travel. The company, based in his home town, went from strength to strength, eventually employing 700 people locally. He sold it to Thomas Cook, trousering over £80million into the bargain.
Good for Ken. You could be excused for thinking that he'd take the money, whizz off to Florida and live the high life. And you'd be right. But Ken was at heart a Blackpool lad, and he pledged to do right by the place.
So he's set up the Kentown Wizard Foundation, which is dropping large cheques onto good causes based in the area. Hospices and children's charities have benefitted with donations adding up to several hundred thousand pounds, given with very little warning. Fund boss Margaret Ingham sums up Kentown's freewheeling approach:
“Quite often they are very surprised to hear from us because they have not applied. We just ask if they want some money!”
Len Curtis of Donna's Dream House, a charity which offers holidays for children in need, confirms that it doesn't take much work to get onto Ken's radar:
“We got a letter saying we would be considered, but it didn’t have much information other than they wanted to come and talk to us. Then it came to a couple of meetings. It was only revealed on Wednesday the extent of the help they wanted to give.”
That help, in case you're wondering, is a complete refurbishment of the charity's premises, work that would have been completely out of the question before Ken's intervention.
You hear a lot about philanthropy and charitable donations from the rich, but Ken's local and slightly eccentric focus does our weary old ventricles a bit of good. We're happy to see a Blackpool lad giving back so solidly to his old community. More news like this in the New Year, please!