Cookstown’s Calendar Girls strip for charity

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MEMBERS of a local older people’s group have become Cookstown’s Calendar Girls after stripping off for a fundraiser.

Women from Opportunities for Older People (O4O) - which works with senior citizens to provide advice, subsidised meals and various social activities each week - jumped at the chance to appear in a charity calendar, with some even stripping for the fundraiser.

All proceeds will go to supporting the local group, which provides around 80 members with a three-course meal at a daily luncheon club as well as day trips, crafts and exercises.

Branch President Margaret Gilbert - who came up with the idea after seeing Helen Mirren and other movie stars strip in the 2003 film which told the story of a Women’s Institute fundraiser - said the calendars are selling well.

“People were very enthusiastic about the idea when I asked them about it,” said the former nurse. “I thought we could try it out and we’ve had a great response from people buying it.”

Those taking part travelled to Killymoon Golf Club after the management opened the course to them free of charge. There, they are captured in various states of dress and undress, in poses with umbrellas, fruit and artwork.

Margaret is seen in one shot posing in a sari she bought from Mumbai on her travels. While she is happy with the finished product, Margaret, who has been involved with O4O since it was founded 26 years ago, said the group plans to embark on a bigger and better project in the near future.

“When the calendar was finished I had so many other members of the group come up to me and express their interest and keeness to get involved so we’re planning to do another one,” she said. “And this one will be bolder!”

Margaret’s colleague Irene McCourt said the funds raised will hopefully help to give a boost during what has been a difficult time for the charity.

“With the economic climate as it is people are understandably cutting back,” said Irene. “And this is really having an effect on the donations we are getting in to the shop.

“A lot of people now bring their old clothes to shops that can give them money in return. Hopefully this calendar will help to raise funds for the group, as well as awareness of the work we do in the area and how much some older people rely on us.”

Group member Peggy Allen said she loves travelling to Cookstown two days a week for dinner and activities with her newfound friends.

“It gets me out and about and I really enjoy it,” said the 81-year-old.

“I come to the luncheon club twice a week and it’s great to get a good meal for just a nominal fee and then we have different activites and I get to chat to people I didn’t know before I joined the club a year ago.”

The calendars, priced at £4 each, are on sale from the O4O office on Oldtown Street and all money raised will be used locally.