A North Tyneside charity is serving snacks in the sunshine after the official opening of a patio area outside its popular Centre.
The North Tyneside Disability Forum works with and for local disabled people, their representatives, friends and families to ensure disabled people are able to participate on equal terms in society with choice and control over their own lives.
The long-standing charity moved its headquarters, swopping buildings to new premises on Earsdon Road in Shiremoor last year, and as part of widening its outreach work, began to trial community coffee mornings in the building that is open to anyone in the area.
The popularity of these events led the Forum to make plans for a café, a permanent part of its activities programme, while it also applied to regional property and energy firm The Banks Group for support from the Banks Community Fund for its plans to build a sheltered patio area outside the Centre that visitors could use.
Having been awarded a £5,000 grant from the Fund, it commissioned local firm KBM Building Services to carry out the work on the patio, which has been block-paved and fitted with railings to ensure it is accessible to all.
Founded more than 30 years ago, North Tyneside Disability Forum provides a wide range of free activities for more than 300 people every week, from photography, Tai Chi and music classes to creative arts, drama and a cinema club.
Its services are supported by a 120-strong team of volunteers, and its members range in age from seven to 87 years old.
The planned café, coming soon, will also provide vocational training and work experience opportunities for some of the charity’s service users with learning disabilities, which it hopes will equip them with new workplace skills.
Liz Turnbull, lead community development worker at North Tyneside Disability Forum, says: “There was a community cafe close to our old premises, but it was forced to close and was much missed by local people.
“Our new headquarters offered both a large kitchen and a good-sized meeting space, so we thought it would be a good idea to create a new cafe that everyone could use instead, our Thursday cafe quickly became very popular with a wide range of local people.
“The Centre provides a safe space in which anyone can spend time chatting with friends and neighbours over a cup of tea, which makes a big difference in terms of tackling social isolation and loneliness, and it also gives some of our members the chance to develop and enhance skills that they might need one day need in the workplace.
“The area outside the Centre provides a perfect place for customers to sit when the weather’s nice, and having this patio in place means it is now fully accessible to everyone.
“There’s no way we’d have been able to take our patio plans forward without the support we’ve had from The Banks Group, and we’re hoping the sun will shining regularly on everyone using it for many years to come.”
Chris Kelsey, communications manager at the Banks Group, says: “The North Tyneside Disability Forum does so much good work for disabled people and their families across local communities, and their ambition to extend it work is making an even bigger difference to the lives of many local people.”
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 James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.