A ‘HEARTLESS’ garden centre chain has ‘devastated’ local Scout groups by dropping them from its Christmas Grotto – denying them vital funds for the year ahead.
Blooms Garden Centre has handed the running of its annual Winter Wonderland to a national company, ending a seven-year association with three Rugby Scout groups – who now need to find thousands of pounds to maintain their buildings, activities and excursions for the next year.
Tony Marsella, group leader of 5th Rugby (Newbold) Scouts, said the annual fundraising drive amounted to around £7000, which went towards the wellbeing of over 200 children in the community.
He said: “We simply can not understand why this cruel decision was made so heartlessly.
“The funds go towards upkeep of buildings, visits and activities. It’s only through fundraising that we can afford to put on some of the activities that we do.
“Ultimately, in a time of recession, it keeps the cost of scouting down for young people.”
He added the scouts had increased attendance at the Grotto from 900 in their first year to a record 2100 last year.
“All we can surmise is that the sub-contracted company saw the fantastic results over the last few years and decided that it was worth taking over purely for financial reasons,” he said.
Discussions are ongoing for other Scout fundraising opportunities at Blooms, such as bag-packing.
But Tony anticipated any totals raised would be unlikely to come anywhere near funds raised from the Grotto in the past.
And he added: “The Scout Leaders want to make it clear to local people that it is not the Scouts running this year’s Grotto, and the increased charge of £8 per child and £1 for each adult will be going directly to the company and not local charities or the Scouts.”
Wyevale Gardens Centres – the parent company of Blooms – has made the same move across all of its branches.
A spokeswoman said: “We take our role as a member of the local Rugby community very seriously. We always host Christmas family events within the garden centre and the involvement of local Scout groups is something that we and our customers appreciate and enjoy.
“This year is no different, but instead of running the Grotto we have asked the Scout groups to get involved in different activities. We know how important fundraising is to them and we’re keen to make sure we support them as best we can.”