‘I’m just going to say one word, wow’ – Stevenage couple are house proud after community volunteers complete magnificent makeover

Just some of the Give Back To Stevenage volunteers who worked on the house.

Just some of the Give Back To Stevenage volunteers who worked on the house. - Credit: Archant

A retired couple from Stevenage are over the moon after their house was given a magnificent 72-hour makeover by Stevenage’s newest community support group.


Arline and Peter Sparrow had been trying to do up their house for years, but age and infirmity had begun to take its toll.

Arline, 70, has ataxia which means she has balance problems and has recently suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and Peter, 73, can no longer go up ladders or do heavy work.

Their house in Furzedown, situated in the Poplars area of town, was badly in need of a makeover until recently established Facebook group Give Back to Stevenage got wind of the couple’s plight and decided to send in a team of volunteers.

More than 40 helpers and tradesmen got stuck in to completely renovate the upstairs, lounge and garden in just 72 hours.

Arline and Peter Sparrow

Arline and Peter Sparrow - Credit: Archant

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GBTS paid for the couple to stay in a hotel overnight until the project was finished and dog-sat the couple’s lurcher, Rosie.

New flooring, carpets, bedding, decorating materials and a stairlift for Arline were all donated by local firms.

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The couple were delighted when the house was handed back to them on Friday by the GBTS team wearing their pink hi viz jackets, with a dove release to celebrate the project’s completion.

Peter, a former British Telecommunications engineer, said: “I’m just going to use one three letter word – wow!

GBTS members Sam Wood, Carlie Forrest and Sue Searle taking a breather after a hectic 72 hours.

GBTS members Sam Wood, Carlie Forrest and Sue Searle taking a breather after a hectic 72 hours. - Credit: Archant

“It’s just amazing what they have done in the time they had.”

Arline, who worked as an industrial machinist for many years, added: “The house was just a shambles, but this just came out of nowhere. I’m still stunned, I still don’t understand what I’ve done to deserve this.

“We were very very surprised there were so many people around willing to help us out.”

GBTS found out about the couple’s plight when Carlie Forrest from the group went to the house to pick up some coats they decided to donate for people in need.

Carlie said: “Arline just asked if we knew any decorators and we put an appeal on our Facebook page. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received and the way it’s all come together.”

Carpet was donated by A1 Carpet and Flooring in Stevenage, bedding came from Tesco and decorating materials from Wickes.

Other businesses which supported the project were Sheryls Sitting Service, Floor-less Solutions, Jollyes The Pet Superstore, The Range, Victoria Greenwood Decorating, Woman with a Van Claire Cuffe, JD Cupcakes, Angel Wings Dove Release and Herts Lifts.

Afterwards, GBTS founder Sam Wood thanked all the businesses and volunteers involved, saying: “GBTS is a community group made up of good will and kindness from people in Stevenage. There is no ‘us and them’ and no divide.

“It is Stevenage working together and that has been shown by all the trades and volunteers who worked and donated to this project.

“This is a credit to the town and shows we are stronger together.”

The couple – who have four children, 10 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren – first met in 1973 when Arline came to Stevenage on holiday from Liverpool to see a friend, and decided to stay.

They will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on Saturday by visiting McDonald’s, as they do every year.

Other recent projects carried out by GBTS include a party for homeless people, a coat donation for people in need and offering care packages and support for those in need.

Find out more about the group by searching for Give Back to Stevenage on Facebook.

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