MOORENDS MINERS WELFARE & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
If all the naysayers and doom-mongers were to be believed, the term ‘community spirit’ was laid to rest a long time ago alongside other fanciful notions such as ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘the good samaritan’. It’s a harsh reality of modern day Britain, as traditional industries have crumbled, our society has become selfish and fractured. When was the last time you walked past a stranger in the street with either of you managing to muster a polite smile or nod of the head, let alone daring to utter the words ‘good morning/good day’?
A recent visit to the Moorends Miners Welfare and Community Development Centre restored my faith that such traditional values do still exist and stand as a true testament to the spirit of our community.
For decades Moorends and Thorne both thrived as mining communities. In 1956 the miners who worked at Thorne Colliery wanted to create a facility for their families and retired colleagues to enjoy social and recreational activities. To fund this new community centre, miners made donations from their own wages. When completed it was called Moorends Old Peoples Welfare and Development Centre. Following the closure of the colliery, the centre was handed over to a dedicated group of trustees who ensured the smooth running of activities and for it to remain at the heart of the community.
At the beginning of the new millennium the centre had fallen into disrepair following a prolonged period of underuse. Due to the combined efforts of a number of community groups and the centre’s trustees sufficient funds were raised in 2005 for a refurbishment and re-vamp of the centre’s activities. This re-vamp also saw the introduction of a dedicated manager to run the day to day operational activities. This position has been held by Susan Durant since it was created. Susan is the only full-time paid employee within the organization. The centre is a charitable building whereby the trustees and management committee are all unpaid voluntary workers.
Following its re-vamp the centre is as busy now as it’s ever been with a host of activities across all age groups. Mother and toddler groups take place every Wednesday and Friday morning, a range of after-school clubs, Age Concern meetings every Friday from 10am and Friday Night Youth clubs are just a selection of some of the regular activities available at the centre. If you fancy keeping fit there’s a range of fitness sessions – from Pilates to Zumba – along with regular Slimming World meetings every Tuesday evening.
The centre also plays an important role assisting members of the community attain employment with a number of courses run throughout the year aimed at attendees achieving important skills and qualifications. In July it hosted a Health & Safety course aimed specifically for working at heights / harness usage. From sixteen attendees six have already attained employment as a direct result. School holidays are a particularly busy time. During the recent summer holiday the centre hosted activities run by the Kids Fitness Zone community group. Every Monday and Tuesday saw, on average, 70 kids per day come to participate in everything from table tennis, craft making and computer-based games. One of the centres most popular events is its annual Halloween party for children – last year saw 112 kids attend with lots of fun games and activities for them to partake in. All free of charge. This year’s event, taking place Friday 1st November, is expected to exceed last years attendance.
Based on West Road next to the Moorends Spiritualist Church and with easy parking access, from the moment the doors open at 9am the centre is available and open to all. During my visit Susan proudly gave me a guided tour of the complex. The recent renovations allowed for an extended catering and kitchen area attached to the main hall. Next to the hall is the main TV lounge where Age Concern hold their meetings and access to the patio garden with separate plots containing a whole range of home grown vegetables and fruit – onions, potatoes, rhubarb. You name it – they’ve grown it. Finally, there is the main games room with a pool table, dart board and table tennis and adjacent to this is the computer room with over 15 computers available for use.
During my visit it was clear to me that Susan’s official job description wouldn’t even begin to describe the efforts both she, and the voluntary workers, have put into their community centre. When I asked her to describe her job her reply was ‘’I help people”. This say’s everything you need to know about the mindset of the people at Moorends Miners Welfare & Community Development Centre. For every problem they will do their level best to find a solution. ‘Need to use a computer to compile your CV? Come on in’. ‘Having problems with housing benefit? Let’s help you out’. ‘Nothing for the kids to do? Bring them down here for some fun.’
The gratitude also shines through in some of the heartfelt testimonies submitted by those who have benefited from the centres assistance. This from a lady who attended a teaching course in May – “The service provided by the Moorends Miners Welfare and Community Development Centre goes above and beyond expectation. I sincerely appreciate having such an amazing and professional venue located within the village.” It also seems parents whose children attended the summer holiday activities were very impressed with comments ranging from “My son felt happy and valued” and “it really gives the children a purpose and keeps them off the streets”.
All of this seems extra special when remembering the centre is a charity organization where people freely give up their time to help others. The Halloween party alone takes three days to set up beforehand and the volunteers can work into the wee small hours in order to be ready. Volunteers like Annie Farrand, Susan’s mum and seen as the heart and soul of the centre. 70 years old and despite suffering from illness during the summer managed to attend all the children’s activities along with a host of other clubs.
People helping people. Not such a fantasy after all. So, the next time someone tells you that community spirit is dead and buried, think of Susan, Annie and the other volunteers at your local centre, take a deep breath and say “Not in my community”.
By Mike Whitehead