Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford helped me get back on my feet, says volunteer
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
It is a centre which embodies the principles behind a campaign to stop people being lonely.
And as the second anniversary of the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford approaches, it is being heralded by Norfolk County Council as a community and business centre which support education, community groups and local business growth.
The centre, based at Staniforth Road, Thetford, was formerly a school prior to the opening of Thetford Academy.
And the site was reopened by Thetford Town Council in 2014, following a campaign from local residents and a handful of councillors.
With more than 85,000 square feet of building space as well as playing fields and tennis courts, the centre is now home to more than 40 organisations which include commercial businesses and local charities.
In April 2015, the site was handed over to the newly formed Charles Burrell Centre Limited which is governed by non-executive board members who support a handful of staff and volunteers responsible for the running of the centre.
One of these volunteers is Sue Gearing, who found herself at a loss when she lost her job. Volunteering at the centre helped her get back on her feet.
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Mrs Gearing, 58, lives with her son in Thetford, and when she lost her parents two and a half years ago, she wanted to put the time that she had spent caring for her elderly parents to good use.
She decided to work for a charity, helping to restore old furniture. But due to changes in funding, she was made redundant and this had a profound effect on her confidence.
She said: 'The job centre sent me on a confidence course and now I am on a four-week placement here at the Charles Burrell Centre which I am hoping they will extend but when I do finish, I still want to carry on here as a volunteer.'
Mrs Gearing's main duties include manning the reception desk.
'I was a little bit nervous when I started but the staff made me feel comfortable straightaway,' she added.
'I've been doing all sorts of things that I never dreamt of doing before. I did a litter pick with councillors, I've sold Christmas cards at a pop-up shop in town as part of the Community Cohesion Day, it's so interesting. I'm really enjoying myself, I just needed that push.
'When I lost my job I really didn't know what do to, I felt useless and completely lost my confidence. I knew there were other things out there but I couldn't see the bigger picture. I like the one-to-one mentoring here and the advice and help that's given me the confidence to do things like answer the phone. My daughter has seen a real difference in me.'
The centre helped Mrs Gearing not only prevent being lonely herself, but by volunteering she's helping others too.
And the staff and volunteers have all pledged their support for Norfolk County Council's In Good Company campaign.
The centre's plans over the coming years are to continue to refurbish and improve areas of the centre.
This includes repairing a damaged roof in the science block, installing directional signage to help visitors find them, repairing fire exit
stairs which will allow use to the viewing balcony in the main hall, repairing car park surfaces and developing the outside facilities for tennis, football, and athletics.
There are many ways you can help support the centre. In particular, the centre would welcome people with skills in painting and decorating, gardening and event management.
Benefits of being a volunteer include:
• Having a purpose
• Learning new skills
• Social interaction
For more information, visit the website www.charlesburrellcentre.joomla.com or contact Barbara Bysouth on 01842 779867.
In Good Company
In Good Company is asking people from all walks of life to make a pledge to do something – however small – to help ensure that no one spends a lonely day if they don't want to.
And in the run-up to Christmas, often a particularly tough time for people who are lonely, the campaign is seeking to focus on promoting the wealth of events, activities and services in Norfolk that are actively working to combat loneliness among our older residents, give ideas to smaller groups and communities who are looking to set up initiatives locally, as well as linking people to volunteering opportunities.
As well as encouraging people to get involved, the campaign aims to launch an In Good Company 'kite mark' for the county – with a series of steps that communities, businesses and organisations can work towards to show how they are helping to drive out loneliness.
To make a personal pledge, find out more about events, activities and services that are designed to help combat loneliness in your area, find volunteering opportunities – or to promote all of these things, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/ingoodcompany or call 0344 800 8020.People can also share their pledges and their support for In Good Company on Twitter – @NorfolkCC using #NoLonelyDay