Users of a busy community church hall in Newcastle no longer have to take the rough with the smooth thanks to a four-figure grant from a North East employer.
The management committee at the Robert Stewart Memorial Church in the city’s West End have been carrying out a ‘Warm & Welcome Project’ over the last 18 months to help make the church more accessible and open to the many different groups and communities that make use of it.
Having spent its available resources on a refurbishment programme in the main hall, the committee had reports back from some users that the floor had become worn down and splintered in places, and was posing a particular risk of injury to the members of the local beaver, cub and scout groups that use it.
But now, thanks to a £3,051 grant from The Banks Group via its Banks Community Fund, the floor has been stripped, sanded and sealed by local firm B & E Younger and made safe for everyone to use.
The grant has also helped improve access to the building by enabling the widening of a doorway by Rob McEwan Building Services and the installation of a new ramp that now allows it to be properly used for wheelchair access.
A celebratory concert by the band Just Us, which is made up of local retired musicians and which practices in the church, is now being planned to mark the completion of the work.
Originally founded in 1905, Robert Stewart Memorial Church plays host to a hugely diverse range of community groups and organisations, from English language classes, a community coffee club and homework clubs through to local council surgeries, karate classes and musical theatre and operatic groups.
It has also been working in partnership with the local “Search Project” for older people in the area, to provide opportunities for them to socialise with other members of the community. Carpet bowls sessions are held twice weekly, while a tea dance is also put on once a month.
Ann Honey, church-related community worker at Robert Stewart Memorial Church, says: “Ours is a really well used venue that’s open to every part of the local community, and we’ve worked extremely hard through the Warm & Welcome project to provide the best possible facilities for everyone who visits us.
“Having committed all the funds we had to work that had already been done, we didn’t know how we were going to pay for the repairs that were required to the floor, so the grant from the Banks Group was a real gift.
“The work that’s been done on the floor means the children can play on it without us needing to worry about them getting hurt, while the access improvements we’ve made open up the building to easy use by even more of our parishioners.
“We’re very much looking forward to our celebratory concert, and to seeing even more local people making use of the improved facilities that we can now offer them.”
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at the Banks Group, adds: “The Robert Stewart Memorial Church plays a pivotal role in the life of the local community, and the sustained energy and commitment that’s gone into their Warm & Welcome project makes them very worthy recipients of support from our Community Fund.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of both operational and proposed Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.