December 7 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Scientists, directors, office staff and the homeless were among 100 volunteers who got together this week to breathe new life into a Wisbech community centre.
The work force – many of them from Anglian Water and their civil engineering contractors - set about transforming the Queen Mary Centre by cleaning, sanding down woodwork, painting walls and clearing the gardens
Over two days, volunteers will have donated more than 1500 man hours to the project, and used gallons of paint to refresh the building.
The centre has recently been leased to The Ferry Project homeless charity, and there are plans to increase public use of the facility.
Russell Beal, on secondment from Anglian Water to the Business in the Community initiative, explained: “The whole idea behind this is for responsible businesses to see what they can do to support the local community.
“We have been working with the Ferry Project to help deliver their vision of transforming the building into a community centre and enterprise hub.
“Our Love to Help volunteers have been delighted to help, their enthusiasm has been overwhelming. Everyone wanted to do their bit to help this project.”
Inside the Queen’s Road building, volunteers revamped the foyer and refreshment area, the main corridor, along with three offices and meeting rooms. Outside, a team tidied the garden and cut back shrubs.
Ferry Project caretaker John Heathorn said: “It is really exciting to see things coming together. To do what the volunteers have achieved would have taken us months.
“We hope to see the centre used for a huge variety of uses, from education and training to wedding receptions and karate classes. The county council already use it for a youth club, but in the past it has been under used.
“We are planning to put a bit of life back into the building, to make it more attractive.”
Luke Venni, administrator for the Ferry Project, added: “It is great that we have been able to work with Anglian Water and Business in the Community as we work towards making the centre more modern and appealing.
“The building was very tired, and we are breathing new life into it.
“We are really grateful to all the volunteers. We are already taking bookings and are here to help the community wherever we can.”
Much of the paint used on the project has come from the Fenland paint recycling charity RePaint.
“The Ferry Project has done a deal with Re Paint,” explained Mr Beal.
“RePaint was looking for some storage, and the Ferry Project has provided that, in exchange for lots of paint.”
The Prince of Wales is president of Business in the Community, and he was told about the Queen Mary Centre project at an event held in London’s Design Centre earlier this year.
Mr Beal said: “We took the Fenland Connections to the Design Centre, and spoke to the prince for 20 minutes about our work in the district.
“He knows all about this project and was interested to hear about the approach we were taking.”
Among the volunteers was Marcia Davies from Huntingdon: “It’s been really good fun to get involved,” she said. “There has been a lot of teamwork and everyone has pulled together.
Lead scientist Tony Wallace agreed: “It’s been a really good day working with the team.”
Also helping with the revamp was Ferry Project hostel resident Dominic Freear, 28, a qualified painter and decorator. Two months ago he helped install a new kitchen into the centre. “I have really enjoyed working alongside the volunteers,” he said.
Among the other Ferry Project residents volunteering were Jay Mattingley, 25, and Marla Fitter, 30.
Jay said: “I volunteer every day, I can’t get enough of it. I help with the Ferry Project’s café, in the garden, or at the night shelter. It’s surprising what can be achieved in such a short time when lots of people get involved.”
Staff from the Ferry Project’s Octavia Café was on hand to help serve lunch to the volunteers.
Jodie Palmby, who usually works for the charity as an administrator, said: “It’s been all hands to the pump today. It’s been great fun and lovely to meet so many new people. It’s been a real good team effort.”
Sarah D’Arcy, sustainability manager with Anglian Water, added: “It’s been brilliant to see so many organisations working together.”
Mr Heathorn gave volunteers an insight into the life of the homeless when he gave an inspirational talk before the volunteers started work.
Mr Heathornn, 48, said: “In 2010 I headed to Wisbech to be closer to my children and found myself homeless and living on the streets.
“It was suggested that I should go to the Ferry Project, where I was assigned a key worker. They set out a plan for me, and referred me to outside agencies.
“Within six months I was back in independent living and came back to the Ferry Project as a volunteer to give something back.
“A job came up and I am now the paid caretaker, I cannot believe they pay me to do something I love doing.”
To book the building, contact the Ferry Project on 01945 581444 or 01945 429300 or go to the new website, www.queenmarycentre.co.uk