Church answers prayers of ‘lifeline’ group searching for new base

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village
New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village

A club which has served as a lifeline to people who are blind and visually impaired for more than 30 years has been saved after a South Tyneside church stepped in to offer them a home.

Following the closure of Sight Service, in Gordon Street, back in May, members of the Jarrow, Hebburn and Boldon Blind Club were left without a place to hold their weekly get-togethers.

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village. Minister Neil Maynard and group volunteer Sheridan Dixon

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village. Minister Neil Maynard and group volunteer Sheridan Dixon

Random venues were chosen but after a few weeks the future of the club looked doubtful as volunteers desperately searched for a place they could meet.

Volunteer Sheridan Dixon said: “When Sight Service closed we were left with nowhere to go. The weekly club is a lifeline for most of our members - and is the only time some of them get out.

“At one point we didn’t think the club would survive as we couldn’t find anywhere suitable and everywhere seemed to be so expensive.”

But just as they were about to give up, they came across Monkton Park Methodist Church and its church hall in Wood Terrace, Jarrow.

At one point we didn’t think the club would survive as we couldn’t find anywhere suitable and everywhere seemed to be so expensive

Sheridan Dixon

After speaking with the church’s minister Reverend Neil Maynard and taking a look around, they realised it was an ideal venue to continue the club which has become a lifeline to its members.

The group has been supporting people who are blind and visually impaired since it was launched in 1975 by Joyce Phipps, who herself was registered as blind at the age of 14.

As a youngster growing up she realised there was nothing in South Tyneside to support people who were blind or partially sighted.

Sheridan added: “When we came across Monkton Park Methodist Church, it was ideal for what we needed

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village

“Most of our club members are very isolated, elderly people, the oldest of whom is 97 years old; for many of them it is the only day of the week that they leave their home.”

The club currently has 14 members and meet on Wednesdays for a lunch and a chat.

Sheridan said: “The club have really enjoyed their new meeting place.

“They are able to enjoy a wholesome freshly cooked meal in comfortable surroundings and really benefit from the social aspect of the group. .

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village

New home to The Blind Club, Monkton Park Methodist Church, Monkton Village

“We’d like to thank the church’s minister Reverend Neil Maynard.”

Any elderly visually impaired people from South Tyneside are welcome to join the group which meet at the church hall on Wednesdays from 11am until 2pm.

New volunteers would also be welcome, particularly those interested in volunteer driving to get members from their homes to the venue.

For information on the club call Alex Wakenshaw on 0191 659 3659.