Centre faces axe as funds run out - VIDEO

A COMMUNITY centre that provides a vital lifeline for its elderly members is today fighting for survival.

The Charles Young Centre in Talbot Road, South Shields, lost its annual £20,000 funding from South Tyneside Council last year as part of town hall budget cuts.

FIGHTING CLOSURE ... Maureen Bridle, Maureen Newby, Gordon Robertshaw and Norren Ann Willetts.

FIGHTING CLOSURE ... Maureen Bridle, Maureen Newby, Gordon Robertshaw and Norren Ann Willetts.

Through ongoing fundraising efforts, it has managed to keep its doors open since.

But the centre, opened by ‘Jarra Arra’ Steve Cram in 1982, has just a few hundred pounds left in its kitty – and could close before the end of the year unless fresh funds are found.

Now the management committee is proposing to throw open its doors to the whole community, in order to ensure its survival, and has invited the public to come forward with ideas to raise cash.

Plans include setting up a tea room and charity shop in the rundown premises and opening the bar for more functions.

Meanwhile, a series of funding applications have been submitted to organisations such as the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, in a determined effort to save the community resource from the axe.

The centre, which has about 100 members, is open five days and six evenings a week, offering a range of activities, including bingo, tea dances, sequence dancing and carpet bowls.

It also provides a two-course lunch and transport for members, who are aged 60 to 94.

The centre is run as an independent charitable trust, but relied on the council’s ‘top-up’ funding to keep it going.

Noreen Willetts, centre chairwoman, is determined the centre ‘won’t be allowed to die’.

She said: “It’s just too important to go under. We will be fighting with our last breath to make sure it does not.

“It is a vital resource for our members. It gets them out of their home and guarantees them a warm meal.

“We’re like a family here, but we need fresh ideas and new volunteers to come in and join us.”

Fundraiser Gordon Robertshaw said: “A lot of the centre is under-used and we need to get the community much more involved. That’s our aim.

“Noreen and her friends are stars. They are trying their best and their health is suffering due to the worry that the centre could close.”

The centre, which employs four full and part-time staff, was established by the late Charles Young, who received an MBE from Prince Charles for his community efforts.

Mr Robertshaw added: “The operational costs of the charity is £80,000 per annum, of which the centre generates £60,000 by room hire and fees for meals and transport, as well as membership. Up until last year the local authority funded the £20,00 shortfall. Now the centre is facing imminent closure.”

Eveline Foster, 90, from Simonside, South Shields, has been a regular at the centre for 18 years.

She said: “I really don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Fellow member Bet Armstrong, 87, of Dean Road, South Shields, added: “There is a sense of fellowship here, and I’ve made so many friends over the year.”

To help the centre in any way, call 421 0516 or e-mail g.robertshaw@yahoo.com.

Any cheques should be made payable to the Charles Young Centre.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazPaul