Meet the woman on a mission to collect 1,000 puzzles

Gail Durbin with just a handful of the hundreds of jigsaws already collected to raise money for NR2 Community Skills Share

Gail Durbin with just a handful of the hundreds of jigsaws already collected to raise money for NR2 Community Skills Share - Credit: Sonya Duncan

People are being urged to dig around in cupboards and the loft and donate their unwanted jigsaws to a city woman on a puzzle mission.

Jigsaw sales surged in lockdown as many revelled in the nostalgia to lift the pandemic gloom.

And now Gail Durbin, 75, is collecting hoards of puzzles in aid of NR2 Community Skills Share - and hopes to collect a staggering 1,000.

Gail Durbin, 74, started collecting puzzles around six weeks ago, and hopes to have collected 1,000 by the end of spring

Gail Durbin, 74, started collecting puzzles around six weeks ago, and hopes to have collected 1,000 jigsaws by the end of spring - Credit: Sonya Duncan

NR2 Community Skills Share aims to improve life in the Vauxhall Street and Unthank Road area of Norwich and actively encourages people to learn from each other.

Charity trustee and fundraiser organiser Gail already has 302 jigsaws of all shapes and sizes - including one 3,000-piece giant - taking over her Unthank Road home she shares with husband David Jones.

Starting her collection just last month, she hopes that when she reaches her dizzying target they will all be sold - with every penny of the profits being directly funnelled back into the charity.

Gail said: "It's nice to have a big target - a lofty goal and a nice round figure.

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"We started doing Sunday socials at a café in Vauxhall Street. That had been very successful. 

"We then had a small foodbank during the pandemic and moved on to hosting gentle exercise classes for those who lost mobility and flexibility during lockdowns. Our tutor adapts classes to people's needs.

"It's not rigorous but it gets people moving.

Gail still has 698 puzzles left to collect. Can you help?

Gail still has 698 puzzles left to collect. Can you help? - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"We meet once a week for the 45-minute class and we have tea and coffee after - which has been a really important part of this.

"Part of the attraction is the social element. A lot of people had missed chatting and companionship. This is what so many people missed during lockdown.

"Isolation has been a massive thing and they're a very supportive group."

Gail added that she hopes people living in NR2 - as well as the wider Norwich area - will support her on her quest.

"It's a good time to be asking for jigsaw donations as many were sold in lockdown and some people discovered their absorbing nature."

Those with puzzles to donate can contact Gail directly via gail.durbin1@gmail.com.