Grant to make centre a reality
A VISION of providing Wisbech with a centre to meet the needs of all ages and groups in the community is to become a reality. Thanks to a massive grant of more than £300,000, work is scheduled to begin in June on the facility which will be based in the Ro
A VISION of providing Wisbech with a centre to meet the needs of all ages and groups in the community is to become a reality.
Thanks to a massive grant of more than £300,000, work is scheduled to begin in June on the facility which will be based in the Rosmini Centre next to the Roman Catholic Church in Queen's Road.
The money has been given by the East of England Development Agency to fund the innovative project.
Plans have been drawn up and a centre manager appointed to start in April; but priest John Doman and the board of trustees are keen to point out that the new venture will be for the whole community and not targeted at any specific group.
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"It is not a Catholic thing; it is not a migrant thing, it is for everyone," he said. "This will be totally independent from the church. A community centre should be open to the community and that seems to be the right way to go about it."
Even the centre's name refers to its approach to the community. Antonio Rosmini (1797-1855) is recognised as a thinker ahead of his time with his inclusive approach to charity.
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The current Rosmini Centre was started in 2005 by Father Doman and John McGill, to cope particularly with the influx of newcomers from Eastern Europe. As many migrants are Catholic, the church became a natural magnet for those coping with the problems of living away from their families.
The church was called upon to provide emergency accommodation, help and support accessing local services and even resolving parking disputes.
Retired teacher Mike Stallard, of Elm, offered free English classes once a week and it became obvious there was a huge need for help.
Some funding was given from the parish and Fenland District Council to improve access to the building.
In 2006 money from Global Grants enabled a part-time project manager to explore the long-term implications of what was happening in the locality and a link was set up with the College of West Anglia to provide life skills courses.
Although there were increasing numbers of migrant families to deal with, it was recognised that a community centre should cater for the needs of the whole community, to help bring people together whatever their nationality or faith. It was also clear that present facilities needed improving.
In December the trustees heard they had succeeded in their bid from EEDA's Investing in Communities Programme to improve and extend the facilities.
Once the centre is fully operational it will be open every day providing a wide range of facilities and services.
Father Dolan said: "There will be an IT suite, a café, meals for the elderly, education classes, sports facilities and activities for children and mums and toddlers. Other organisations will use it as a base to deliver services."
There is already a full-time family support officer to help families in crisis, a contact centre for parents of separated families and a parent-and-toddler group.
New manager Anita Grodkiewicz begins her job on April 1. There will be a family support co-ordinator and a migrant support assistant.
Father Dolan says the new manager has an excellent record of raising funds - a necessity to make the centre self-financing.
Other organisations already using the centre include Slimming World, the Bowthorpe Centre, PHAB, Scottish Dancing, Yoga, other slimming clubs and a wine club.
Alternative accommodation is being arranged while the work gets under way. It is hoped it will take about six months to transform the building into a centre Wisbech can be proud of.
The present entrance will be completely changed to give access to the rooms above.
There will be a smart foyer but the main hall will remain almost untouched.
The attic will be converted into the IT Centre and a garage area will be converted into yet more rooms.