Mum’s fight with dementia prompts daughter to open dedicated centre

Combined Touch directors Gillian Hope (left) and Tess Pennock after the opening of Combined Touch centre, South Shields. . Picture by FRANK REID
Combined Touch directors Gillian Hope (left) and Tess Pennock after the opening of Combined Touch centre, South Shields. . Picture by FRANK REID

A daughter who was touched by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s has realised her dream of opening a day centre for people with dementia.

 Tess Pennock and business partner Gillian Hope officially launched Combined Touch – a community interest company – at Horsley Hill Square, in South Shields, this week.

Dolly Mixture members (left to right) Betty Dickson, Doris Ashcroft and Hilda Joyce are presented with flowers by Tess Pennock (director) after they opened the Combined Touch centre, South Shields. . Picture by FRANK REID

Dolly Mixture members (left to right) Betty Dickson, Doris Ashcroft and Hilda Joyce are presented with flowers by Tess Pennock (director) after they opened the Combined Touch centre, South Shields. . Picture by FRANK REID

The centre aims to provide care and support to people with early to mid-onset dementia through a range of activities to help keep their minds active.

The dream to open up a dementia centre came following Tess’ time spent with her mum Fern Utton and realising more needed to be done to support people with dementia.

The centre was officially opened by the Dolly Mixtures – a group which toured the male-dominated working men’s clubs in the 1970s to raise £100,000 for Cancer Research – and will be open seven days a week with various sessions available.

Services include: tailored exercise classes; hair, beauty and holistic, intergenerational activities; managed accounts for direct payments/personal budgets; garden swap shops; talks and lectures; holistic therapies; craft shops; book readings; swap shops and advocacy.

“We have had a few setbacks along the way but all that done was make us more determined.”

Tess Pennock

Tess said: “I just can’t believe we have got here after all this time. We have had a few setbacks along the way but all that done was make us more determined – we are just really happy we have finally been able to open the doors.”

The pair were helped in their venture by SES –a social enterprise company – based at the Co Op Centre, in Sunderland.

The premises were also made possible with the help of their husbands Bill Pennock and Mark Hope, Shaun Clements (the plumber) and Geoff Richardson (the kitchen fitter), Storey’s carpets, and plasterers John and Jay.

Gillian Hope said: “We are just over the moon with everything. We were working right up until the doors opening to get things ready,

“We have done everything on a shoestring and we are so grateful for everyone for their help and kind words.”

For more information or if you can help, contact Tess Pennock or Gillian Hope on 07423099280 or email CombinedTouch@gmail.com.

Information is also available by visiting www.combinedtouch.co.uk.