Over 150 people came together on Saturday to celebrate the long-awaited official launch of the Brandon Day Centre, the newly opened Café 27 and a new Minibus enabling access to the centre services.
The Day Centre building, which is run by Empanda Care & Support and owned by Forest Heath District Council, was built in 1998 from funds raised by the Brandon Community Association (BCA), a local charity, who continue to financially support the day centre’s two minibuses and the drivers who provide a free door-to-door transport service for day care members.
Following a warm welcome by Sally Hanlin, Empanda’s MD, Cllr David Palmer, Forest Heath District and Town Councillor and Brandon Day Centre steering group chair, spoke of the special relationship between Empanda and the steering group (comprising elected members, council officers, the BCA and other local people) in supporting the Centre. He talked about an ongoing fundraising campaign to raise money for two new minibuses to replace the old and tired vehicles currently in use, and how he and steering group colleagues had been successful in securing a grant award of £20,000 from Postcode Community Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery which, together with donations from locality budgets and Community Chest, local businesses and supporters, had resulted in the first minibus being purchased.
David said, “On behalf of the Steering Group, I would like to express our gratitude to all who have supported our efforts to replace the Centre’s two minibuses, including Postcode Community Trust and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, local people and organisations. Our first new vehicle is in place and we are now fundraising to replace the second. The rural nature of our catchment area and the limited mobility of our client base, makes the provision of free, daily transportation essential to maintaining the Centre’s viability. Be assured that your help has improved the quality of life for many who would otherwise be isolated in their own homes. We hope that the new buses will help to ensure that the Day Care Centre will continue to enhance the lives of our senior and more vulnerable citizens for many years to come.”
He then introduced The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care who, after a short speech, declared the centre and café open before unveiling the new minibus with Stanley and Eadey, grandchildren of day centre member Keith Lawrence.
Backed by the media, Matt, along with Suffolk County, Forest Heath District and Brandon Town councillors, the BCA and the wider community, launched a campaign in the autumn of 2016 to keep the day centre open when the former provider announced their intention to close this vital resource, as it was no longer financially viable. Stanley (12) and Eadey (10), joined the campaign to ensure their grandad could continue enjoying his visits to the day centre by instigating a petition and collecting over 2,000 signatures. Having them join Matt to cut the ribbon recognised their valuable support.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world”, said Matt. “It’s fantastic how the whole community has pulled together to make this happen. Empanda taking over the Brandon Day Centre is evidence that it was the right thing to do. With so many different services on offer, it truly is a multi-generational centre. From being at crisis point, it has transformed into an even better day centre than before, and that warms my heart.”
The event then opened up to the wider Brandon Community, who met with members, staff and guests and visited the stands displaying the work of many of the organisations who work in partnership with Empanda, before enjoying some entertainment and a BBQ which had been prepared by staff and residents from Empanda’s young people’s service.
Sally Hanlin, Empanda’s managing director, said: “Our aspirations to see the Centre grow and evolve into a vibrant community resource for our members and the wider Brandon community are beginning to be realised. We have been overwhelmed by the support given from day one by the BCA, Town, District and County Councils, who have been integral in keeping the Centre open and continue to show their support and commitment to ensuring it remains sustainable and viable into the future.” She added, “We have many projects in the pipeline, including the opening of a ‘Men’s Shed’, a community garden at an allotment donated by the Brandon Allotment Association, a community cinema, as well as more inter-generational projects.”
Since Empanda took over in January 2017, day care attendance has doubled and the range of activities on offer to members has increased and is more varied. The centre has been totally refurbished and new lounge furniture has been purchased thanks to support from locality budgets, the BCA and the Ganzoni Charitable Trust. The former dining room has been transformed into a contemporary café – Café 27, which takes its name from the IP27 Brandon postcode.
Designed in partnership with students from West Suffolk College, Café 27 opened its doors to the public on 2 July this year, providing ethically sourced and locally roasted coffee, delicious snacks and cakes in a contemporary setting, including outdoor seating, kiddie’s corner and free Wi-Fi. The café also provides a locally sourced, nutritious two-course lunch for members, as well as for people at the neighbouring housing with care scheme, Heathcote House. The café offers a venue for a ‘Meet up Monday’s group and St Nicholas Hospice ‘Open House’ group and plans are in place to host new groups in the future.
The building’s meeting/training room is used by local organisations on a block or ad hoc basis and provides a perfect venue for those looking to hire meeting space.
Anyone wishing to contribute towards the fundraising appeal to purchase the second minibus can donate securely online by visiting www.brandonca.cf