Community group marks 25 years of changing lives

A communities charity in South Tyneside is welcoming in the future by remembering its past as it marks its 25th anniversary.

Monday, 14th March 2016, 5:00 am
Andrew Watts, left, executive director of Groundwork, and Derrick Robson, chairman from 1991-2002, with the proposal document to establish the organisation.

Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) is staging an exhibition to highlight its work since it opened for business on March 15, 1991.

Bosses hope to open it to the public later in the year – featuring some of its best achievements, including the building of the Eco Centre in the mid-1990s and creating West Boldon Lodge, its outdoor education centre, a decade later.

The organisation, part of a national Groundwork federation, works to rejuvenate urban spaces and supports people into employment through education and training.

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Groundwork STAN’s successes have included supporting thousands of people into work, apprenticeships or training, and rejuvenating swathes of green spaces.

The charity has also recycled hundreds of tonnes of goods.

It opened its current Eco Centre headquarters in Windmill Way, Hebburn, in 1996 and other projects include Monkton Community Woodland, Green Gym, adult and community learning courses, youth employment and skills programmes, and the purpose-built West Boldon Lodge outdoor environmental education centre.

Groundwork STAN has also been instrumental in the creation of Marsden Road Health and Wellness Centre and the £5.4million One Trinity Green business centre, both in South Shields, and the £6.5million Beacon enterprise centre in Newcastle.

The organisation now employs about 60 full and part-time staff.

Executive director Andrew Watts said: “We have achieved a great deal over the years and we know we have a made a real difference to the lives of many thousands of people.

“It’s been a very exciting and fulfilling journey, but I firmly believe that many equally good years – and many positive initiatives to support people in South Tyneside – lie ahead.”

Groundwork STAN was established with the support of South Tyneside Council, which oversaw the establishment of a board of trustees.

The first project was landscape improvements at the Golden Lion pub in Jarrow, followed by similar work at Hylton Castle Coaches’ depot in East Boldon, and then better signage information at Cleadon windmill.

Ernie Henderson, 56, of Clyde Street, Hebburn, joined Groundwork in 2004 as a trainee on its Heritage Trail ILM programme, leading guided walks, and then became an employee on its Horsley Hill Green Project.

Now a Groundwork land supervisor, he said: “When I started as a volunteer I was on long-term sick, so after 12 years of health problems I heard about the opportunities on offer with the heritage trail. I’m still here working for this fantastic company in an area I’m very passionate about. Groundwork has changed my life.”