Firm foundations, teamwork and dedication secure 30 years for Hope Lea

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Hucknall’s Hope Lea is a charity that provides day centre care and accommodation for adults with learning difficulties across its three sites in the town and is celebrating its 30th anniversary during 2014.

Jackie Derbyshire visited the day facility on Watnall Road to meet the service users, staff and volunteers to find out about what sets this charity apart from the rest and how it has maintained its commitment to the community over three decades.

Behind the traditional facade of this typical three-bedroom house on Hucknall’s Watnall Road is an extraordinary ‘family’ home.

The council owned property is much like many others in the neighbourhood except this provides much-needed ‘hope’ and care for members of the community which often appear on the fringes of society.

Hope Lea is a charity set up in 1984 to provide a place for adults with learning disabilities to learn, be cared for and socialise as well as to become valued members of the community.

It began when a group of carers and parents who highlighted the need for town-based facilities for town-based residents. Before Hope Lea became a reality, this group of individuals had to access services in Nottingham and Sutton.

Thanks to the determination of this small group, together with support from a social worker, Hope Lea was born.

“There was nothing for adults with learning disabilities in Hucknall at the time,” explained managing director of the charity, Judith Storey, who received an MBE for her 30 years of dedication to the group. “It was all about providing support for Hucknall residents here in Hucknall.

“It’s not just about ease of access but about receiving this type of support in the community where they live.”

Ashfield District Council own the building and lease it to the charity who pay a peppercorn rent.

“This has enabled us to expand the property and our facilities over the years and given the home and its users stability,” added Judith, whose son Philip was born with a genetic condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome, which gives her an understanding and empathy with other carers.

The charity is supported by two directors; Glenis Rigley and Ena Unwin, three trustees; Janet Simpson, Norah Hatton and Nuala Brown, as well as other volunteers and 13 paid workers.

As well as the day care centre on Watnall Road, Hope Lea also consists of a property on Annesley Road, which is a residential home accommodating six people who receive 24 hour support seven days a week, together with a place on Portland Road for two people with supported living.

All three facilities receive financial support from Nottinghamshire County Council, which up to 2012, was under a service agreement. However when the budget cuts were implemented it brought about many changes and new challenges for projects like Hope Lea.

“Each service-user is now individually assessed which determines how often they can access the services as well as how much funding support we receive,” added Judith. “It has changed things quite significantly for us, but unlike many similar facilities we have managed to keep operating.

“Our service-users haven’t noticed any significant differences but the level of administration has added complications, policies and red tape.”

Despite these funding changes, it is the team at Hope Lea which has been the foundation stone that has kept the organisation running.

“We have stood the test of time,” said senior support assistant, Eddie Tennant. “Hope Lea was unique when it started and before its time. Its longevity is based on teamwork through dedication with community support.”

Another worker is 21 year-old David Allinson, who was first introduced to the project when he spent time here whilst on work experience with Holgate school.

“It was awkward at first as I didn’t know what to expect as a 16 year-old,” said David who has been employed at Hope Lea for five years. “Once I got to know the people though it was good and a great place to work.”

David, together with other carers and volunteers, provide a range of activities both social and educational to service-users to enable them to receive independent living skills as well as help them become part of the community through integration and acceptance.

The council funding is supported through year-round fundraising and donations from groups and individuals from across the region who have become affiliated with the charity.

“The fundraising helps provide the extras like days out, trips and treats,” added Judith. “And the help we receive from places like the Central Club, Hucknall Rotary and people like Nancy Taylor, provide invaluable support.”

The charity holds a Garden Party fundraiser each year and this year’s annual event was supplemented by an anniversary celebration with special guests and supporters which includes Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Paddy Tipping, who has been an advocate for the charity since his days as MP for Sherwood.

County and district councillor, John Wilmott is also a regular visitor and praised the efforts of workers and volunteers.

“The staff and volunteers work tirelessly,” said Coun Wilmott who also financially supports the scheme through his councillor’s community pot. “I’ve never seen so many people committed to such a worthwhile project and they really look after the people who use the facilities.

“I am so pleased to be able to support it.”

Service-users enjoy their time spent at Hope Lea and have met firm friends at the facility.

“My best friend is Emma who I met here,” said Chelsea Greensmith. “I really love seeing her here.”

David Vere added his appreciation of the opportunities given by the charity. “I like going on the trips and days out as well as playing games.”

One of the founding parents of the project, Deirdre Millington, said the resource has proved invaluable to her family.

“It is a fabulous place and my son George has been visiting since it first opened,” said Deirdre of Brett Close, Hucknall. “George won’t leave the house unless it is to go to Hope Lea. He loves the staff and enjoys going into town with them too.

“It has, and continues to be, invaluable and I can call Judith anytime and know she understands.”

Staff member Eddie Tennant summed up Hope Lea: “It’s all about helping to give service-users a really good life by making them happy, entertained and safe by caring for them and helping them feel part of the community.”

Hope Lea currently has some vacancies for service-users and is desperate to enroll some extra trustees to share the responsibilities.

For further information call 0115 9530825.