Meg Grimes, who died on Wednesday 18th May 2011, aged 60, was Chairman of the Julian Trust and the Founder of Bristol’s Night Shelter. In many ways she was its driving force throughout the first 25 years of its history. She was the first to recognise she could not do everything and she wanted as many hands as possible to help; a strong team gathered around her. From small beginnings as a soup kitchen in Pennywell Road, the work and the organisation grew to where it is today with 150 volunteers and an equal number of other supporters helping in different ways. In 1987, the second year of the Night Shelter, a group of people that included Meg, Ron Smith, Julie & Steve Griffiths and others started Caring at Christmas and they became its first trustees.
Meg regularly did Monday Evening duties at the Shelter and helped on other nights when needed. She led the Friday morning cleaning team. She was at her happiest when talking to homeless guests and in the kitchen preparing meals. She did not enjoy chairing formal meetings, often saying she didn’t have the skills for it; public speaking at the AGM was always an ordeal for her.
The key principles for the Night Shelter that Meg supported were that its provision should be both simple and basic. Simple means open access, no forms, no questions, no names, no charges. Basic means emergency beds in dormitory accommodation with hot drinks and food all run by volunteers. The aim was to be the helping hand at the bottom rung of the ladder, offering a warm welcome, a friendly face and a listening ear.
Meg’s motivation was the same as most volunteers – a sense of compassion and justice for those less fortunate going through difficult times. She always insisted that we call those who use our services ‘guests’ and not clients and treat them as individuals. The words of Dame Julian of Norwich inspired her. “To love a human being is to accept him as he is. If you wait until he is different you are only loving an idea.” This became the motto of the Julian Trust and the reason for its name. In 2001 Meg was awarded the Lord Mayor’s Gold Medal in recognition of her contribution to the care of the homeless in the City.
Meg was born and brought up in Avonmouth. She trained as a nurse working at the BRI for many years; for the rest of her career she was a residential care home manager from which job she had recently retired. Meg lived her life to the full. She was devoted to her family, especially her two sons Ben and George, and she had many, many friends who she really appreciated. Meg loved everything about Christmas and prepared for it at least six months in advance even naming her house – Christmas Lodge! She was a committed member of All Saints Church, Fishponds, helping with the cleaning team and with the flowers. Meg had a passion for Shostakovich, old hymns and sixties music. She was an avid reader, mainly novels, and she devoured newspapers from cover to cover every day. She loved dogs and hated gardening; she collected spode blue and white china. Her favourite way to spend Saturday afternoon was watching rugby and she thought Johnny Wilkinson was lovely! She also enjoyed watching boxing on TV and never missed an episode of ‘Eastenders’, if she could help it! She was one of the best cake makers in the world and every guest at the Night Shelter, whose birthday she knew about, got a cake with candles and singing. Meg fell in love with New York City, visiting it twice in recent years, some graffiti from there appealed to her sense of humour it said: “God is alive and well, but working on a much less ambitious project!”
Certainly the Night Shelter was and is an ambitious project; it is a real memorial to her work and a life lived caring about others. She touched hundreds of people’s lives and is still greatly missed by all, especially sons Ben and George, brother Jim, sisters Sandra and Barbara and a much wider family.