Banks Group grant for new equipment widens access at Ashington community gym

August 21, 2013 | Brenkley News

The installation of new gym equipment at a Northumberland sports facility is helping to widen access to growing numbers of older people across the community.

A new treadmill and hand bike have been added to the gymnasium at the Hirst Welfare Centre in Ashington after it was awarded a £5,000 grant by Banks Mining, via its Banks Community Fund.

The new equipment has already helped to attract more than 80 new users who are aged 50 and over into the gym to take part in new programmes that have been specially developed to meet their exercise and well-being needs.

And it is also being used to help with the recuperation of people who have suffered brain injuries as part of a partnership between the Centre and the Northumberland Brain Injury Service.

The Hirst Welfare Centre is a multi-use community sports facility which offers a wide range of activities, from gymnastics, zumba and aerobics to football, boxing and basketball, and has over 600 registered gym users.

It also provides a base from which a number of community organisations deliver their services, including youth drop-ins, a toy library, a crèche facility and healthy living classes.

Centre director Gail Ballance says: “We wanted to improve the facilities we were able to offer to older people, but wouldn’t have been able to do so without Banks’ assistance and we’re extremely grateful to them for their support.

“The take-up amongst older members of the community for this new kit has been fantastic – many of our new users have done little exercise of this type for a long time, so we’ve developed a number of programmes for them to follow that ensure they’re exercising safely and in ways that are appropriate to their individual needs.

“The work we’re doing with the Northumberland Brain Injury Service can make a real difference to the recovery of the patients whom they support, and we’re very glad to be providing them with more options around care delivery.”

Banks is currently looking to secure planning permission for additional work at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, at which around 200 people are currently employed and which contribute around £35m every year to the local economy through wages and the supply chain.

Elsewhere in Northumberland, the company is also carrying out public consultation on its plans for the Highthorn Surface Mine near Widdrington Station and around its proposed development of over 400 new homes in Ponteland.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Group, adds: “Hirst Welfare is at the centre of the community in Ashington in very many different ways.  The facilities they provide are clearly having a positive impact on the health and well-being of a wide cross-section of the local population, and we’re very pleased to be able to support their drive to help local residents get fitter and stay healthy.”

Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for funding in the vicinity of a Banks Group development should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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