A Northumberland charity is building a better future for itself and its clients after completing refurbishment work on its headquarters building.
Real Deal Plus provides a range of services which help around 1,000 disadvantaged people in South East Northumberland meet the challenges they face on a daily basis, with services covering food, clothing and furniture banks, mental health support, training, work experience and providing shelter for homeless people.
Based at the old police station on Station Road in Ashington, the charity runs with the support of more than 50 local volunteers, including some of the clients that it helps, and has seen demand for its services grow quickly over the last couple of years.
While the inside of its offices are in good shape, the outside of the building was neglected for many years before the charity moved in, and it was felt that the impression made by its condition was creating a barrier that was stopping some people who were looking for help from finding out what was available.
The cost of carrying out the required work and the need to invest to meet growing demand on its services were considered prohibitive factors by the charity to getting the required work done – but after winning a £10,000 grant from regional employer The Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund, Real Deal Plus has been able to commission Blyth-based Rapier Construction to get things done.
New block paving and a concrete ramp have been put in place at the Station Road entrance, brickwork has been repointed where required, and the building’s original railings, which were taken out during World War Two for use in aiding the war effort but then never used, have been put back where they belong.
Feedback from the clients and volunteers, as well as from local passers-by, has been universally positive, and the charity’s gardening group is already developing plans to introduce a living garden and patio area in the coming months.
Kathy Urwin of Real Deal Plus says: “We have a vibrant and successful operation that helps hundreds of local people on a weekly basis with a range of different needs, but while the inside of the building is bright and welcoming, we’ve always felt that the state of the outside could be putting some people off coming in in the first place.
“Providing better access from what is already a busy street will hopefully encourage more local people to come in and see what sort of support we can provide, and having the original railings back in place after more than 70 years is a lovely finishing touch.
“Seeing the upgraded building is making people feel so much better about the area, and we’re constantly being told by passers-by just how much of an impact the improvements we’ve made have had on the community as a whole.
“The Banks Group’s generous support has enabled us to bring forward a project that would otherwise have taken much longer to get going, and we believe it will have a real impact on the services we provide and the people we’re looking to help through providing them.”
Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at the Banks Group, says: “Real Deal Plus provides an invaluable lifeline for hundreds of local people who need their support, and the impact the charity has on the community life cannot be underestimated.
“We’ve worked in South East Northumberland for well over three decades, and this is the latest in a long line of hugely worthwhile community projects that we’ve been able to support as a result of our work here.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.
Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.