Meet the community champion who will switch on Dereham’s Christmas lights
- Credit: Ian Burt
He's a man who has become a celebrity in his own town and widely respected for the thousands of pounds he raises annually for charity.
Now Paul Sandford, landlord of the Railway Tavern in Dereham, has been chosen in a public vote to switch on the town's Christmas lights in recognition of his support for his community.
The 49-year-old father-of-two has now raised a staggering £90,000 for charity during his working life in the town, first through the fitness centres he ran and now through the pub on Yaxham Road.
'The first charity I decided to help was MS (Multiple Sclerosis) because of my friend Julian King who has the disease,' he said.
'Then I tried to help individuals to make sure every penny raised went directly to them. The first youngster we helped was Blake Barley who needed treatment in America but we also raised money for Deryn Blackwell who made a miraculous recovery from two cancers, and lots of others.'
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Norfolk-based charities have also benefitted from Tavern fundraisers including Nelson's Journey, a bereavement charity which supported Mr Sandford's friend Adrian Hargreaves' children after the Beeston man's death from oesophageal cancer in 2012.
'The charity really helped the kids in the aftermath of his death,' he said. 'We set up Hugfest, a music and beer festival at the pub, to raise money for Nelson's Journey.'
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Mr Sandford is particularly keen to support the armed forces as his dad was in the RAF for 43 years and was based at Swanton Morley.
'My son-in-law was a Light Dragoon so we always mark Remembrance Sunday and any battle honours here,' he said. 'We are now getting to know the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards and a few of them play football for us.
'We've got five teams at the Tavern now, including two veteran teams and a ladies team. Our Saturday team has been really successful, the first team to win the county cup three times on the trot. Not bad for a little pub.'
Mr Sandford works his charm on local businesses for sponsorship including Fenscape and Doors Plus but also sponsors Dereham rugby club through the pub.
* Dereham's Christmas Lights will be illuminated on December 3 from 4.30pm in the Market Place. There will also be a market and entertainment throughout the day.