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CARE & COMMUNITY


A service that truly


cares


A new high quality and innovative day service is providing a person-centred approach towards community inclusion for adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties through its programme of stimulating activities.


Not-for-profit Community Connect is run by three highly knowledgeable carers with decades of experience between them.


Having previously worked


together at the council-run Oaks Day Centre in Wath, care experts Gary Burton, Kathryn Atherton and Dianne Stalker built Community Connect over a 12-month period, with help from a social enterprise incubator. Kathryn was inspired to open a non-profit facility and focus on providing outstanding care experiences after a close family member went through the traditional care system. When Kathryn suggested opening a new centre to support adults with diverse needs, Gary and Dianne jumped at the chance to get involved in the project. The trio sought help from business advisors at Groundwork


South Yorkshire, but they had no venue for their dream day centre - that was until a chance conversation with the brother of a builder in her local pub.


After forging links, this resulted in his construction company notifying Kathryn of vacant premises on Moor Road, Wath-Upon-Dearne, which consequently became home to Community Connect. However, at that stage the derelict building was still a distant dream on the horizon. Upon visiting, the scale of the project became apparent, with no plaster on the walls and what appeared to be just a shell. It took five months to get planning permission to do the works, although the paperwork behind the scenes to acquire not-for-profit status kept the team busy throughout. Wath Construction kindly


‘‘at Community Connect we take part in many activities, learning new skills, socialising and connecting with new and old friends’’


completed the work for free, setting a trend for other local businesses to help the dedicated carers and service users.


Other generous financial donations have been gratefully received, along with the gift of a greenhouse and fresh fruit and vegetables for service users to tend to.


When it comes to activities, Community Connect users set their own agenda.


Be it growing produce in the allotment, cycling in a nearby park, playing bowls at a neighbouring green, walking by Manvers Lake or taking the train to Sheffield, their range of activities includes something for all interests. Some even helped to furnish the centre, picking out equipment like bicycles and a hi-fi system. Rainy-day activities involve use of the pool table, games and jigsaws, arts and crafts, cake-baking, karaoke and other sociable pastimes. Or if the weather is pleasant, service users can be found making the most of the great outdoors and learning an abundance of new skills.


Their growing group of members also continually participate in a range of community-based activities varying from running coffee mornings, collecting litter, to planting public gardens. “We want to promote wellbeing, independence and being part of the wider community. It’s amazing how many people want to help us. They often just wander in to see what we’re doing and offer their support. Everybody comments on how homely the place feels,” Gary said. Just two months after opening, the centre hosts dozens of sessions each week and requests from new members are increasing daily. Service users are referred by local authorities or can pay privately to attend the day centre. The facility runs on a combination of funding, private fees and grants.


46 aroundtownmagazine.co.uk


“This is the best thing I’ve ever done, I couldn’t even call it a job, because we’re all like family. I look forward to working with our service users every day. We just want to make a difference,” Kathryn said. Matthew, a service user, added: “It’s very nice down here. I especially like being in the garden and at the allotment.


The trio have plans to expand in the future to include a seven-day service and provision of aged care which is Gary’s area of expertise. However, tailored care and community involvement will always remain at the heart of what they do. “We don’t want it to get too big and lose the individual aspect of our care,” said Gary. Working with the community, students from Dearne Valley College will soon come to gain work experience for future careers in the field.


Neighbouring land behind


Wath Rugby Club could be turned into a garden with help from the green-fingered gang at Community Connect, while a stall on the centre’s allotment will sell home grown produce.


Making a difference locally was the original aim of the team and for them it’s been incredible to see the extended community support and the engagement of the service users.


Your support You too can support Community Connect by popping in for a coffee on a Wednesday morning at Montgomery Hall, Wath, where the service users help at the weekly sessions. This would enable you to see first-hand the positive impact the centre is having on their lives.


For more information about Community Connect call 01709 877786


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