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The Rita Charles Trust

In 1996 Belfast bus driver Peter Lavery became the biggest National Lottery winner in Northern Ireland after winning £10,248,233.

Before his good fortune, Peter lived in the nationalist Short Strand district of East Belfast and was involved in voluntary community development for many years, working on housing redevelopment, developing community facilities and organising recreational activities for elderly residents.

He was also heavily involved in cross-community contact schemes and projects designed to encourage reconciliation between Unionists and Nationalists in the greater East Belfast area.

In 1993 Peter was recognised for his commitment and dedication to community service and was unanimously elected as the first Catholic Chairman of East Belfast Community Council – an umbrella organisation of over 200 community and voluntary groups operating throughout the east of the city.

This was followed in 1995 while working as a bus driver with Citybus he represented East Belfast at the US Trade and lnvestment conference in Washington, D.C. It was a memorable occasion for Peter where he met President Clinton.

Since his lottery win Peter has become a leading business figure in Belfast, investing in property development, pubs, restaurants and now the development of The Danny Boy Collection of unique branded giftware - employing a number of people from the local community.

During this time, he has also continued to be active at a community level, serving as a voluntary board member on a number of charitable projects including East Belfast Community Focus, Landmark East, The Mozambique Appeal and NI Chest Heart and Stroke Association.

Peter continues to generously support grass-roots, community projects through his cross-community charity, The Rita Charles Trust.

Established in honour of his late mother Rita and father Charles, the Trust is chaired by his friend and fellow community worker Sammy Douglas. To date the Trust has distributed nearly £I million to numerous projects in disadvantaged areas and has made a significant donation to integrated education – an initiative keenly supported by Peter.

For the past nine years the Trust has organised a unique Belfast – wide Christmas dinner in one of Belfast’s leading hotels for up to 400 senior citizens from Unionist and Nationalist areas which has become ‘a must attend’ Christmas event.

It is here where senior citizens come together from Newtownards Road, Short Strand, Falls, Shankill and other working class areas of Belfast to reminisce about the linen mills, the tobacco factories, clothing factories and other memories from their past. For some, it is a renewal of old friendships built up long before the recent troubles that sadly divided these proud, working class communities.

Some recent examples of The Rita Charles Trust support for community projects include: ‘pump priming’ for Cloona/Oasis in Poleglass for start up businesses and job creation; support for a mural of George Best in the Cregagh estate in East Belfast where he grew up before reaching international status as one of the best, if not the best footballer the world has ever seen; Upper Ardoyne Youth Group activities; Ballymac centre on the Newtownards Road and Short Strand Community Centre.

Peter recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of his lottery win and charitable activities through the Rita Charles Trust. It also heralded 30 unbroken years of sterling community and voluntary work in East Belfast and beyond.

Reflecting on the work of the trust during this time he has many happy memories of initiatives that undoubtedly have helped in some way to improve the lives of thousands of ordinary people.

“The ‘Florida Dream Trip’ is one of the events that was special for me” recalls Peter. Organised by the Trust, a number of families who had been directly affected during the troubles were treated to ten days of fun and sunshine in Kissimmee, Florida.

He also took a personal interest in the fortunes of a young Russian boy whose legs had been badly twisted as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Through the ‘Chernobyl Childrens’ Appeal’ he will always remember travelling to Moscow where it was minus 40 and meeting the consultant who carried out a successful operation on the young lad.

He has brought a smile to the face of numerous local children who suffer from a range of debilitating illnesses by simply taking them for a drive in his De Lorean sports car made famous in the Back to the Future movies. One of the few remaining De Lorean cars in the world that were built by workers here in Belfast.

For the future, Peter sees the Rita Charles Trust promoting and fostering those leaders and projects within our communities who are involved in reconciliation and peace building across the religious and political divides: “we are emerging from a conflict that has lasted over 35 years and it will take considerable effort and time if we are to deal with the legacy of the troubles; a legacy of hurt and pain that remains raw and still experienced by many people on this small island on the periphery of Europe”.

The Trust has been forced to alter the direction of their endeavours and as a charitable organisation has become more of a facilitator than a direct provider. Over the past number of years the Trust has received an ever increasing number of requests for financial aid which stretch our funds to the limit.

The Rita Charles Trust will use all its’ resources and expertise to enable groups and individuals to achieve their objectives which we hope will enrich our communities.

The Trust is fully committed to advancing the cause of all those who are striving for reconciliation in our society and who are working to enrich the lives of the disadvantaged.

The Danny Boy Collection website will help facilitate those plans by directing a percentage of its own profits to the Rita Charles Trust in the years ahead.

Therefore purchasing products from our range of Danny Boy branded merchandise will not only provide you with unique products to use and cherish but you will also be helping support the initiatives of the Rita Charles Trust.

If you would care to donate directly to the Rita Charles Trust you can do so through our secure online shopping facility.

Thank you for your support.

You can donate directly to the Rita Charles Trust by sending a cheque to :
The Rita Charles Trust. C/o 8 Station Road, Craigavad. Holywood. BT18 0BP. N.Ireland.

Secure Online donations will be available soon.