A CELEBRATION marking the life of a leading light in supporting victims of domestic violence is to be held next month.

The event will honour Jenni Manners, who died on August 25 at the age of 60 following a long battle with cancer.

It will take place on Monday, February 4, at 12.30pm at Immanuel URC Church, in Upham Road.

Jenni founded the Swindon Women’s Refuge in 1975, one of the first in the country, and managed it for the next 35 years before illness forced her to retire.

For many years she fought an ever constant shortage of finances as she struggled to establish the refuge and more than 15,000 women and children were given shelter during her time at the helm.

In 1999, she was named the Swindon Advertiser ’s Citizen of the Millennium after she inspired the Allied Dunbar charitable trust’s decision to pour more than £2m into providing and extending women’s refuges elsewhere in the country.

Speaking on behalf of the refuge, services manager Jackie Pennington said: “Without Jenni, the refuge simply would not be where it is today.

“She was our heartbeat and the guiding hand leading so many victims of domestic violence and abuse into a brighter future.

“Through her tireless efforts the refuge blossomed and over the years, Jenni has been a true inspiration and mentor to many of us – residents, committee and staff. Without her input, advice, support and wisdom many of us, as individuals, would not be the people we are today.

“She was able to see the potential in everyone and allowed people space to develop and grow.

“Jenni’s generosity knew no bounds. She was, most definitely, the most generous person I have ever known. She gave of herself and her time to so many people that she will forever hold a special place in hundreds, if not thousands, of hearts.

“Jenni was, is and always will be the spirit of Swindon refuge and the guiding light taking us forward.”

The hour long celebration will start at 12.30pm, with contributions from her family, friends, ex-residents and professionals from local agencies.

It will include a presentation of Jenni’s uncollected MBE by the Lord Lieutenant for Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton and will be led by the Revd Geoff Gleed, who conducted Jenni’s funeral service. For more information call Jackie Pennington, Refuge Services Manager on 01793 864984.