She might sound like someone you don’t want to mess with, but ‘Jenny Chopper’ as she is known around Worcestershire, or Jenny Ashman to give her proper name, is only dangerous when she thinks you might have a few quid in your pocket that could be helping the Midlands Air Ambulance to save lives.
Jenny has supported Midlands Air Ambulance since 1993 when ‘Air 5’, as it was known back then, had the use of just one aircraft on loan part time and a temporary base at Halfpenny Green Airport. In the intervening years, she has become Area Coordinator for Midlands Air Ambulance in Worcestershire helping to raise over £1.7 million of funding towards what today is one of the largest and busiest air ambulance services in the UK.
Yet, Jenny became involved with the Air Ambulance almost by accident. The retired teacher from Inkberrow (the same Worcestershire hamlet on which the fictional village of Ambridge in the Archers is said to be based), was clearing out some old clutter, including two antique chairs which she sold for £40. She donated the money to the fledgling Air Ambulance service and has been volunteering for the Charity ever since. Such is her dedication to Midlands Air Ambulance, Jenny only ever wears red (she says that if she wears any other colour people do not recognise her!)
Operating in a rural area means Jenny spends much of her fundraising life outdoors. Realising this, the local motorcycle safety club made her a special red flying suit with her name embroidered on the front and Midlands Air Ambulance on the back. “It’s wonderful”, says Jenny. “I love wearing it because I am so proud to be part of Midlands Air Ambulance and it’s flame and wind proof!”
Jenny has attended many hundreds of fundraising events in her 17 years of service and has many wonderful stories and memories. One of her favourites involves a dinner at a very fine house where she collected £7,000 from the well-to-do guests after giving one of her typically passionate talks on the work of Midlands Air Ambulance.
The next day she went to a small town pub down the road to pick up another collection, which, she admits did not look at all promising.The landlord handed over two bags of coins saying they hadn’t had time to count it, but suggested before she leaves she should speak to a chap in the corner who had once been airlifted by Midlands Air Ambulance.
Jenny went over and the man said, “I don’t want the bloody thing so they may as well have it” pointing to a half a prosthetic leg held-up by its breeches and standing on the bar. The leg was filled with over £300 of loose change donated by regulars over the years.
“It just goes to show that Midlands Air Ambulance is there for everyone. It really is the people’s service,” she says. Jenny admits that volunteering and meeting so many wonderful people gives her a reason to get up every morning. As to credit for the funds raised: “It’s the community that has raised all this money,” she insists. “Not me. This has all come from the people. People are so supportive of the Charity because they know it could be any of them, their loved ones or neighbours that needs air lifting one day.”
As to retiring, she’ll have none of it: “I’ll be having a red coffin and they can take me off in a helicopter”, says Jenny from the Chopper.