Recognition for Swaffham’s Merle Boddy Centre stalwarts

Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham, has been going for 30 years - Service user Jane Fleming doing some a

Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham, has been going for 30 years - Service user Jane Fleming doing some arts and craft with Jackie Longman (left). Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

'I can honestly say I've loved every single second I've worked here' – those were the words of a woman who has dedicated 25 years to helping people affected by mental health problems.

Georgie Bell, together with chairman of the trustees Eddie Doran, was yesterday recognised for her work at the Merle Boddy Centre in Swaffham.

In her time, centre manager Mrs Bell has seen a number of changes at the Station Yard facility and, despite funding cuts, the service has grown.

The centre, run by the Swaffham and District Mental Health Association, offers a place for people with mental health problems to enjoy the company of others, join in crafts and quizzes, garden and reminisce.

The service has developed from originally helping those with a range needs to providing a service mainly for people aged over 60 with dementia.

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Former South West Norfolk MP Baroness Gillian Shephard, who opened the centre in 1988, yesterday presented Mrs Bell and Mr Doran with certificates.

Mrs Bell said: 'I get up in the morning and look forward to coming in and the challenge.

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'I love it, I absolutely love it.'

She said there are 12 to 15 people at each session from 9.30am to 2.30pm and which includes refreshments and a home-cooked two-course lunch.

'We are a family, not a day service,' said Mrs Bell. 'When people come in here, it's like they are coming to their family. I don't think of them as clients.

'It is not only important for those who come here, but also for their carers. We give carers much-needed respite and I feel proud that I'm able to have their loved ones here. It's a big responsibility.'

The service is run by a team of seven staff plus volunteers.

Baroness Shephard said: 'The demands on the centre have changed over time. People who come now are maybe older and possibly more needy and the demands on the staff have increased, yet the activities on offer are hugely varied and very enjoyable.

'It's the most wonderful service. People can come for five days a week if they want to and it gives them structure to their day. I'm hoping that it will continue for another 25 years. The demand for these kind of services is only going to increase.'

The centre needs more volunteers. Anyone willing to give up their time for the service, especially those with particular skills in areas such as finance, should call 01760 724527.

Do you know a community stalwart who has been given recognition? Email

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