Great Yarmouth’s Centre 81 launches £5m appeal to build new bigger base

Centre 81 member Richard Jex enjoys a painting session watched by wife Mary

Centre 81 member Richard Jex enjoys a painting session watched by wife Mary - Credit: Archant

A £5m appeal to transform Centre 81 has been launched, with ambitions to brighten the lives of disabled people long into the future.

Members, volunteers and staff at Centre 81s existing base

Members, volunteers and staff at Centre 81s existing base - Credit: Archant

The long-running Great Yarmouth charity has revealed proposals to rebuild its Tar Works Road site, with a state-of-the-art new complex.

Work is needed to meet growing demand, and centre bosses are appealing to the public to help make their dream a reality.

Chief executive Diana Staines said: 'People want to be here but we are at capacity.

'We have 70 members and 750 bus users but there are 19,000 people across the borough with long-term conditions.


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'Our site is a mix of portable buildings which are fast reaching their sell-by date.

'Members are voting with their wheels and want to be involved in Centre 81, but we need more space that is designed for our needs – including room for specialist equipment and members' customised wheelchairs that take up more room.'

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A £135,000 grant from the borough council helped the centre buy extra land next door to its current site – the garden of the Mildred Stone House care home - that virtually doubles the site, and a £10,000 Lottery Awards for All grant paid for a feasibility study.

The Centre has £30,000 in a building fund kitty, including £800 raised at a recent casino night.

But next Friday it will officially launch a big push for £5m to turn the two-year vision into reality - and unveil concept plans that provide an early insight into how Centre 81 could look.

The appeal launch will also show the kind of facilities it could offer for the riverside site, which will includeimproved and expanded facilities.

Activities enjoyed by 70 skills and activities centre members include arts and crafts, bowling, games, gardening, drama sessions, pampering, parties, swimming, sailing, clay pigeon shooting, theatre visits, or just chatting.

There is also chiropody, counselling and support for carers.

The centre rebuild will be phased to enable it to keep operating throughout the scheme.

It will also consult people over the provision of services in the new complex.

The charity is appealing to people to help by arranging a fundraising event towards the fund, making a donation or raising awareness of the centre's work.

To help the appeal call 01493 852573, email reception@centre81.com or visit www.centre81.co.uk

Life changed for Richard Jex – and his wife Mary – when he suffered a stroke eight years ago.

It left Southtown man Mr Jex with balance and mood swing problems – and meant his wife became his carer.

'We were stuck in the home - looking at and hating each other,' said Mrs Jex, 55.

'He was falling a lot and afraid to go out in case he needed help. I was not managing, and was blaming him for stopping me getting out and about.'

But Centre 81 has transformed the couple's lives again – for the better.

Former hospital cleaner Mr Jex, who also suffers from epilepsy, started visiting one day a week - and now goes five times – enjoying a range of activities from art to bowling.

It means Mrs Jex has her own time too, and she admits 'I have got a bit of life back.'

She gets counselling to help with her carer role, including dealing with the emotions that go with it.

And she has become a fan of the centre, where she is a fundraiser and a regular volunteer.

'I get so much from pleasure from seeing Richard and the other members smiling,' Mary added.

She said the rebuild was 'essential' because there is a need for more space.

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