A busy County Durham community centre is looking smart as it prepares to welcome local people back thanks to a four-figure grant from a regional employer.
As part of ensuring that it had enough room to continue running educational activities for a local special needs group safely during the pandemic, Belmont Community Association built a partition in the main room of the centre that it runs on Sunderland Road in Gilesgate Moor to create a separate second space.
The centre is due to fully reopen next month with the expected easing of the coronavirus restrictions, but the two rooms are to be kept in place to ensure appropriate social distance can be maintained by users for as long as it is required.
And the Community Association has now used a £3,575 grant from the Banks Community Fund to ensure users will have the fixtures and fittings required to make full use of the new room and that bookings can continue to be fulfilled for all the groups that want to restart their regular activities.
New tables and chairs, a new notice board and new white board have been brought in, while a new fire door has been added to ensure users’ safety.
The whole hall has also been redecorated and had improvements made to its electrical circuits.
In normal times, Belmont Community Centre hosts around 25 different activities every week, ranging from tea dances, craft fairs and a table tennis club through to martial arts sessions, a chat & craft group and the Cheesy Waffles and Wider World special needs groups.
The Banks Group is a longstanding supporter of the Community Centre, with a £23,170 grant given four years ago allowing for a full refurbishment of its kitchen to take place, which included the installation of new windows, electrics, plumbing, flooring, cabinets, worktops, sinks and numerous appliances.
Mick Bennett, treasurer of Belmont Community Association, says: “Creating the second room was the only way we could safely offer the facilities that our special needs groups required to continue their education activities and we realised that it could bring longer-term benefits too as we begin to get back to normal.
“We’re expecting the need for social distancing to be maintained for some time to come, and without having the second room, we would almost certainly have had to turn down bookings from some of our regular users, which after so much time away from the centre, would have been very disappointing for everyone.
“The hall looks very smart after its redecoration, the new room feels really welcoming and we’re excited to see what our community thinks of all the work we’ve done.
“Banks’ ongoing support has made a big difference to the facilities we can offer local people and this latest grant will help us continue to welcome as many of them into the building as we can.”
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “Community centres have been a big miss for a lot of people over the last year and demand is certain to be high as clubs and societies start to get back to the activities they enjoy.
“The new room looks realty smart and it’s great for us to be able to extend our support for yet another community organisation in our home city.”
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 the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.