By Ian Dipple Friday 01 March 2013 Updated: 01/03 09:47
A CENTRE originally founded to support women across Redditch is preparing to mark 25 years serving the community.
Today The Sandycroft Centre in West Avenue in Smallwood is a community hub offering men and women from different communities an array of services including debt advice, counselling, help for domestic violence victims, education and family services.
It is a long way from its humble beginnings, initially starting out as an unsuccessful project in 1983 to help isolated women.
It was later relaunched to focus on supporting all women across Redditch. Women from different nationalities would meet at Redditch Town Hall on Mondays and at Salop Road Community Centre on Wednesdays to take part in a range of activities including coffee mornings and jumble sales.
In 1989 the council agreed to let the group use the house known as Sandycroft for its meeting place which became the All Women’s House. At first the building was badly in need of repair and with little funding the group would meet every two weeks sitting on milk crates around a little oil heater.
It was the brainchild of a group including Betty Passingham, Madge Tillsley MBE, Kishwar Ahmad, Elsie Williams, Pat Wilson and Tanweer Dean, who still works at the centre to this day.
Mrs Tillsley told the Standard: “We were pioneers but in those days there were no grants so if we wanted to do anything we just had to get on and do it ourselves.”
Funding was secured from the Home Office and an advice worker, English teacher and nursery teacher along with a manager were employed to take the centre forward.
The aim was to reduce isolation of women in the Redditch community and to raise aspirations through education and development.
Family intervention services to support women and their families were added later as well as an after-school club to help children with maths, English and computer skills. Nursery assistants were also employed to help children from families where English was a second language.
Eight years ago the decision was made to open the centre’s services up to men and it was rebranded as The Sandycroft Centre.
A centre spokeswoman said: “Community groups and partner agencies enhance the centre and we look forward to our milestone 25 years community engagement and hope we can look forward to a big celebration and not forget the people who fought for the organisations many years ago.”
Coun David Thain, who represents Smallwood on Worcestershire County Council, visited the centre on Tuesday along with fellow county councillor Brandon Clayton to see its work in action.
He said: “The Sandycroft Centre offers diverse and much needed assistance to the community and I am always pleased to be able to offer help and support.”
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