Well life as an Music Man Project member just keeps getting better. David Stanley the Music
Man is so driven to get the best for us all, that he's only gone and booked us into
Broadway....yes Broadway NEW YORK!
This will be taking place in 2021, so we have a lot of months to raise the money to take 7 of our
gang with a carer each. The show will also be performed in the UK for those unable to travel
abroad and there will be rehearsals to attend. When we took them to London, they were blown
away because many of them had never been out of Lowestoft, let alone to a big city and now
we're going to a different country....WOW!
We have estimated that the cost of all this will be approximately £16,000. So let the fundraising
begin. Lou and some of the gang have started making up sweet bags which they are selling
and are going very well. We are also set to do a fundraiser before Christmas on the 15th
December in the afternoon. This will be held at The Lake Lothing pub where you will be able to
see the Bangers and Crashers perform. We have many more fundraisers in the pipe line, so if
you would like to come along, please watch this space or our Facebook page “Unity Centre”
If you would like the Bangers and Crashers to perform at your venue for a donation towards this
amazing opportunity, please contact Jac on 07793490731 or The Unity Centre 01502 539810.
Who knew that when we started Bang and Crash that it would end up with us performing at the
amazing Royal Albert Hall. This show was a dream of David Stanley's for a lot of years. He felt
that people with a learning disability should have the chance to perform at this iconic venue and
so he set out to make it happen. This took many years due to having to perform and sell out
another top London venue first. He did this by inviting other groups to join in and not only did
we do it, we broke a Guinness world record by playing the most number of triangles in a triangle
concerto that David wrote, the audience got involved in that one and were amazing.
This opportunity was such an exciting one for us, we're a small group compared to the others
but we have just as much enthusiasm. Like with the London Palladium, it was a very long day,
but our gang managed it with ease. They did themselves proud with their behaviour and
support of each other. And also like with the Palladium, we learnt it through watching videos and
listening to backing tracks.
Our proudest moment of the day was when six of the nine played the glocks. When we
rehearsed for the Palladium, we couldn't get our group to play them well enough to perform
them on stage, but when it came to the Royal Albert Hall, I was determined that they were going
to be able to join in with other performers. My months of nagging and being a grumpy music
director (apparently that's what I am!....lol!) well it paid off and they were so proud of
themselves. Seeing their big smiles just melts your heart.
Myself and Luo are so very proud of our Bangers and Crashers, we look forward to it every
week and they don't leave us disappointed. Roll on the next adventure.
Tales of Unity Mouse
By Barbara Elliot
One day Darryl and I was cleaning out the mousery,
”We'll have to transfer them into the small cage” I said.
When it came to putting the last one into the cage, I found out, he was born without a tail, so I told Darryl about him when we cleaned out their home, we put everything back into the tank. I started to transfer the mice back into the tank, I picked up mousy no tail and put him back into the tank, followed by his mates.
One day he escaped from his cage, he was running around the house, so Fido managed to track him down and tried to kill him, so I managed to rescue him from Fido's mouth. I picked him up and put him back into the tank. He recovered from his ordeal and Fee the budgie started to tweet and play with her toys. She sat on her swing, she was twittering at the TV and radio.
So one day Darryl got up and came down the stairs to feed the mice, Mousy Notail came up to me because his mates wouldn't have anything to do with him because of his disabilities, Then I found out that he had severe learning disabilities, so I told him about The Unity Centre, so he can meet other people and make friends and join in with the activities. Then I picked him up and put him in the travel box and took him down to the Unity Centre and I introduced him to Jac the Chinchilla, she took us around the Centre and she took us to the coffee bar and introduced us to Becky the Beaver who was baking some sausage rolls for the 44 club Jac the chinchilla, took us into the social area and introduced us to Sammy mouse who was cleaning the tables and sweeping the floor and she was having another hot chocolate. Mark the canary had flown in and sat down next to her and he started to sing to her.
Jac the chinchilla took us out the back and introduced us to Jane the field mouse who was sorting out donations for Sammy mouse to put in the baskets outside near the entrance. Then Jac took us into the shop and introduced us to Tony the rat who was serving a customer, then we sat down in the social area next to Jane the frog. She was telling us about her new pond and Robert the door mouse came in and ordered his beans on toast and bought some sweets and some crisps and Ben the rabbit hopped in and sat down at the table behind us and started to play Mouse-gui-yo and Mousemon with Conner the dog and Dean the Dingo and Nathan the Snail and Charlotte the chipmunk. Then Mousey Notail told me that he was changing his name to Unity Mouse and Becky the Beaver has had her Hoola Hoops and cheese on toast. Jake the Hamster had put the baskets outside for Jac.
Denise the Iguana and Kevin the Lizard came in for bacon rolls and cheeseburger. Becky made them a coffee and a hot chocolate so Kevin could take his tablets, he started to wind up Sam and was drawing some pictures for her. Then Brian the skunk came in, he was talking to imaginary friends from the Falcon on his mobile phone. Then Jackie and Charlie chipmunk came in to the shop to see if everything was running smoothly. Mick the cat came in and drank all the milk, so Becky had to send Steve down to Mouseco to get some more and Sonia the spider came down from her web and started to make more webs in the cupboards behind the coffee bar. She cleaned the cupboards and the microwave and the fridge and the grilling machine. Georgia the gerbil came in to help Becky in the coffee bar.
Angelo the singing monk came in with has CD player and CD's and started to sing for us and Unity started to dance around his travel box. Unity likes crash and bash because Louie Lou comes in and she bought in her laptop with some songs she downloaded of YouTube and she connected it up to the speaker so she can play her tunes for us and Unity liked to dance to the songs and Barbara can play her bongo's. Unity came out of his shell and gained his confidence so I told Darryl what I did and Darryl said I did a good thing to help Mousey Notail out and Unity came up to me and said can we go down tomorrow, I'm such a lucky mouse to have nice friends and would recommend the Unity Centre to all my mousey friends.
Well am I one excited Chairwoman or what?? Just a quickie on why and when I have more on the subject, I will write it all down.
I attended a meeting last Friday with David Stanley and a few others to learn about David's Music Man project. David started music session in 2000 at Southend Mencap. He ran these for a few years then started The Music Man project. They have music 5 days a week 10-3 and produce some amazing music.
Last year in June his group hired out The London Palladium and packed it out. His enthusiasm and love of what he does is infectious and I was swept away with the idea of our bang & crash session joining the Music Man Project and becoming the accomplished musicians that they are.
We have 2 years to teach our bangers and crashers some rhythm to be able to join in with another huge event.
If anyone would like to take part in this wonderful project, get in touch with us at the Centre and we will give more details.
There's a few details to be ironed out then I will put a full positng on this project and hope youre as excited as I am :-D
A journal & report of the Peoples Millions
The first step of our prep was for me (Jac, Chairwoman) to attend a media training course. This was a very valuable asset to our campaign strategy. The first thing we were asked to do after introductions, was to talk about our project for one minute into the camera. This came as a shock to the 8 of us taking part. I’m very passionate about our project and I don’t have to read or be prompted to tell people what it involves. But to be amongst strangers on my own and talk about it into a camera which was totally out of the blue, I was about as tongue tied as everyone else.
I think the reason the do this is to show us how awkward we come across if we don’t follow their advice. Believe me, it works. You watch yourself and cringe, then after a day of learning, you are so much better the next time.
The most valuable advice for me though, was about how to campaign! They gave us so many tips and hints, showed us videos of past winners campaigns and more importantly gave us hints on what NOT to do because it might sound like a good idea but in reality it was a waste of your resources and time.
The next step was a team meeting. All the volunteers were invited and our president to just happens to have been an MP for thirteen years, so knows all about campaigning, got together and set up a strategy of what to do. Fortunately we have an enthusiastic team so ideas came flooding in.
You have to think about your own town and community and think what would be best. Each town is different so what works for one wont for another. We decided on four main strategies.
1. Get the local media involved. I spent 2 hours on the local radio, chatting away between songs about our project.
We also got ourselves a big spread in the local paper,that brought us a lot of interest.
2. Social media. We made a video of our own about our project. It was set to music, we found a song that we felt was suitable for us. It wasn’t sloppy, it was a happy little ditty. It had text on it at the beginning, then at the end giving out details of the numbers to call and other details of the project. We obviously had to wait until the numbers were released to be able to send it out. We sent this video out to a few PR companies that we had previously been in touch with, so that they could send it out on the day of our campaign. We also put it on all social Media. We paid for it to “Reach” people on Facebook. That way, people didn’t have to wait until the news to see a film of us, they saw it during the campaign day and voted. We took into account that voting went on until midnight, so we kept circulating the video until late.
3. Lots of us took to the town Centre to campaign all day. I set up my PA so that myself and my Dad could sing all day long to attract attention. We also spoke between each song telling everyone what we were doing and why. We took a notice pin board with us so that people could see photo’s and read about the Centre that the project is being run from.
4 We had a very large banner made that was hung from our building, it let people know about the campaign day and the vote. Our building has many passers by, so we knew this was a good move for us.
Campaign day was a very long and cold day. It was hard work but fun and exciting too. We put up a large bright red gazebo with bunting on to get people’s attention that something was going on. We had so many people come to us congratulating us for getting to the tv vote and saying they will vote there and then. We had some collection pots with us and managed to fill a few of them, so that was a bonus. Being out in the street is great because you get to talk to your community. For us, having the PA and 2 people singing was fun, it attracted people to where we are and people donated just because of that.
After the campaigning and the tv vote was over, we kept things going on social media and a few people went round pubs and social center’s in the evening to keep gaining votes. This was really good.
Getting the call
The best thing about the campaigning day being so long and being hard work is that we slept well. The adrenalin had worn off and we were all warm and cosy back home.
The next morning however was tense and dragged on. We had watched the previous winners the day before and seen how they were told and I figured with all the people there, that they had been told before anyone from Anglia tv turned up. So, I thought to myself, the call must come before 9.30 to give the project leaders time to get the place buzzing with people. 9.30 came and went and I resigned myself to the fact we hadn’t won. 9.36 was when the call came. I still thought she was going to say no, so when she said we had won, I didn’t say a word, my brain went into trying to process this, she then repeated it and I broke down like a total gaffawing mess. All the tension that had built up over the months leading up to this call just came blubbering out. Not my finest hour!
Anglia tv’s arrival
The long wait of one and half hours for the cameras to arrive kind of flew by. We had to phone people, go collect people and try to locate as many people as we could, to be in the Centre by 11am without telling them why. That wasn’t easy. When the cameras arrived and announce to us all that we had won, I cried again. Now, quite a few friends of mine, like me, had figured out, we must know before hand so they said to me that I was a good actress for turning on the waterworks. But they were real. The whole winning thing didn’t seem real until the presenter walked in with the cheque. It was such an amazing feeling. We had all worked so hard for this so to have won was just beyond words of happiness at the time. The presenters stayed with us for a cuppa and a chat, they were lovely and so interested in our project.
A little flaw in our winnings!
After winning the money, we then had a set back. The reason for that was because £12,000 of our bid was rejected. I was astounded because I had gone through the bid 3 times before we even got to the tv vote, so why was it now being rejected. To cut a long story short, basically “The Peoples Millions” seems like it is just the competition, you then get handed over to “The Big Lottery Fund” who give you the money. The PM’s hadn’t picked up on the fact we had applied for a years running costs of already existing bills which the BLF don‘t pay out for. All was not lost though, they didn‘t take the money off of us, they asked us to spend it on something else that we needed.
This took some thought as we need so much. We had a few ideas that we put forward and it was decided to use it on replacing the front windows, a new door and brick weaving the uneven patio flooring at the front of the premises. This would enhance the look of the place to make us more attractive, help with energy bills as we were going from single to double glazed and it would mean we could put tables and chairs out front for people to sit having made use of our café.
The next headache was getting quotes asap. Builders don’t seem to understand that term “asap” It took several weeks but we finally got the quotes and the BLF accepted that we would change the running costs applied for, to new windows, door and patio.
Throughout all of this, Anne, the lady I liaised with throughout was great, she explained thing well and ensured I understood what was expected and needed from us.
Getting the first installment
On a plus note for us. Because we are a charity that needs two signatures to spend any money, we didn’t need to open a new bank account. This meant not waiting for a new account to open so it was one less headache to contend with.
It had been 11 months since we first applied, so prices for many of the things we originally priced up for, had changed. Fortunately, most of it had come down in price. Anne was very understanding of this. I meant we could buy a few more things for the kitchen for example because the money we had set aside for that had a remaining amount due to price drops. We used this money to buy extra things we didn’t think we could afford before.
Lets start spending!
What to pay for first!
The first instalment of money was to pay for wages for the 2 behind the coffee bar. It was so great to know that we had staff coming in every day to cover this area. We have Becky every morning and Nathan for the afternoons. We also spent money on buying new equipment for there, which helped a lot.
Our next big purchases were to get an alarm system and 4 more cctv cameras, these were installed and our minds were put at rest for future break ins. After winning the money we were broken into twice, the mess made was the most upsetting part about it, so having a good alarm system was so comforting. The cctv cameras aren’t just for security, because we deal with people with mild to moderate learning disabilities, we have learned that they are forgetful and get confused easily so it is very handy to be able to check things on cctv to see where they have left belongings or even if they had them in the first place. The service users like it that they can do this.
Our first building works to be carried out was to have the cobblestone frontage dug up and replaced with brick weave. We did this because it was difficult for wheelchairs to gain access to our premises so this would make it better for them and also so that we could put tables and chairs outside. It was a bit dangerous to put those out with the uneven floor. Our front faces south so we get the sun all day and we want to take advantage of this.
Our first fun purchase was the interactive smart board. This is a 70 inch screen which we can use for gaming, training and movies.
Things then slowed down with spending because we needed to pay a deposit of half the cost to the window company to have the front windows and door replaced. This was a lot of money for us to pay up front so we wanted to make sure we had it to pay them when they were available. Then we had a meeting with 2 people from the fund who told us we didn’t have to wait for the money, we could get the deposit paid so we could get started….wish they had told us that one earlier. I tried to contact the company who had said they would do it but they weren’t getting back to me so as a last minute decision, we changed companies. This was great and they quoted us cheaper because they couldn’t do the auto door which was a shame but I didn’t want to lose the money so we decided to go with them anyway.
One of the other big changes but from a small purchase was our shop area, we bought a second till and made a new counter. This meant that the people doing work experience would feel like they were in a proper shop work environment, this went down really well. Our work experience volunteers with learning disabilities gained confidence and took pride in their work area. We found that customers and services users alike loved the new shop area, this gave the volunteers great pride in working there. The income for the shop increased because more people used it now it looked like a proper shop.
We had 14 new tables and 30 chairs arrive for our coffee bar area, this transformed our café and social area, it gave more space to socialize and this improved income for the coffee bar.
The art course
Part of our funding rant went to paying for 4 10 week art courses called “Journey through the field of art” These courses we set 2 for parents/carers and 2 for vulnerable adults.
The idea of the course is to help with self-confidence, self-esteem and learning to express themselves. These were popular courses which not only built confidence up in people while in the atmosphere of the course but allowed them to integrate into our Unity family and become a part of something else.
Summing up of our Peoples Millions experience
Like many people, if not the majority of people, who apply for this funding, we are not business people. When applying, we thought we were prepared for the year ahead, but we weren’t. We realized we didn’t understand how some of it worked and should have asked more questions but we weren’t aware of our lack of understanding.
Unfortunately for us we had 2 tragedies and 2 break ins where damage was done, during our year, which made it hard for us to focus on the project. Working with people with learning disabilities is not black and white and you never know what is going to happen from day to day, with our service users and work experience people, supporting them with these upses came first . The whole idea of the Centre is to support them, so that support comes first when it is needed. This put us behind a little, but we got there.
The result of this left us with quite a lot of stress but it was worth it because of what we gained. We now have a shop and coffee bar that we are proud of. When customers come in and compliment us on our achievements it makes us so happy.
The Centre looks so much smarter than a year ago, we were in a rundown building which now looks sparkling from the front and a welcoming environment. We are able to offer more activities and training with our new computers and smart board, our service users and volunteers are enjoying this.
For the first time since we’ve been open, we were able to offer the school kids work experience as they had a proper environment to come to. We offered this to one local school, from doing this, we have had enquiries from other schools for next year.
Having more space now has enabled us to start up a youth group in the New Year which is great because our project of 2015 has enabled us to progress on to more things in 2016 which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
Howdy folks! I hope you've all had a great summer. For us at the Centre is seems to have whizzed by. The Centre itself has been very busy with people coming and going, the coffee bar with it's now extended menu and the shop with all the huge quantities of donations that we have been given. We are on our second "Fill a carrier bag for 50p" sale of the season as we have run out of room to store the donations given. We are always astounded at not only the amount of donations but the quality of some of them. People can be so generous.
We have a good amount of volunteers helping out at the Centre several days a week each.....yeay! I feel that people who volunteer in this way, where ever it is, don't get the recognition they deserve. People put on single fundraisers for a cause because it's dear to them at the time, and this is great, they are wonderful for doing it and it can take a lot to organise. They get so much praise for doing this single event, yet people who tirelessly keep on raising money for a cause hardly get any recognition. So next time you're in a charity shop or somewhere that is run or largely supported by volunteers, just saying something nice in support will make their day. Many of them are volunteering because they want to be out there in the community but for personal reasons they can't commit to employment, or they want to get back into employment but need some confidence boosting first like working with a team or being a part of something again.
For me, Jac chairwoman, I have done a fundraiser each Friday at the Centre with Debz and Jonathan. We have had the BBQ going and I have sung whilst sitting out there on my stool. Most weeks my Dad the legendary Don Woods joined me too, he comes with his old style country music which our service users love. I have sometimes had harmonies in my ear from one of our service users Angello which is always fun....trying to keep from laughing while he comes up with some funny harmonies is always funny.
One of the things I really enjoy when doing our Friday BBQ, is chatting with people passing by and seeing people who I haven't seen for quite a while, who have come specially because they've seen it advertised, seeing lots of smiling faces is always great.
I can't eat the things off the BBQ as I'm gluten free so sitting right next to it while Debz and Jonathan cook away has been torture......I must get some gluten free food sorted for the Centre, then I can join in! Debz and Jonathan have made a great team and cooked food to order so it's all fresh. Sadly it's all over for this year....unless we get another shot at an Indian summer....then just maybe we'll do it all over again....any excuse to sit outside rather than be tucked away in the back room!
The BBQ it'self was donated by the Lowestoft Rotary Club, so we are very appreciative of that from them, it has been used on many occasion and thoroughly enjoyed.
Our support of Talent Match is going well. Sadly we lose Bryn soon though. He has been working in our admin department and has been doing a great job. Once Talent Match stop paying him, he is staying on as a volunteer which we're thrilled about. We are looking for funding to keep him on with us, so fingers crossed we come up with something soon. We have watched him grow and become much more confident since we first met him so I would say that he was a very successful Talent Match placing.
We have a young lady Samantha, who has started her 4 week work experience in our shop area with the hope that she's happy enough to stay for the 6 months on the Talent Match program.
Sadly we had the loss of one of our service users who passed away, he was a huge part of our Unity family. Scott Smith was loved by all and we have so many great memories of him being with us. He was so much fun and will be very missed. We raised some funds and planted a tree for him so that we had some thing for the other service users to remember him by. R.I.P Scott, we miss you. xxx
We also planted a tree for Robin Lunniss who passed away suddenly too, he was on our committee and we still miss him. He was such a happy chap who was so willing to help and join in. I have fond memories of our Bookers run's together, it was always fun....and that's coming from someone who hates shopping!, Thanks for the laughs Robin xxx
So, now the summer is over it's time to start thinking of indoor activities! The karaoke will start again, we also have a few service users who play guitar, so they're going to come in with them so we can have a great sing song together. We are trying to get funding for recording equipment so that we can record people and teach them how to record themselves or others.
We are also wanting to start some youth groups, one for the youngsters with learning disabilities and one for their siblings. These 2 groups will be run by qualified youth workers, so keep a look out for those 2 activities coming up.
We will be starting a membership scheme very soon. We haven't ironed all the details yet but one thing we do know is that people don't have to be a member to be a service users, membership will come with reward points to redeem at the Centre on food, drinks or gaming cards as well as discounts at various local places like restaurants, shops and beauty parlours. You will have to be a member to take part in some of the activities for free like Smartboard gaming. So keep your eyes pealed for what comes next.
A huge thank you to Trevor who did a sponsored swim and raised over £50 for us. He is one of our service users who took it upon himself to do the swim and raise money for us.
Well, it's been a while hasn't it!...I'm very sorry for that, I will put my hands up to it being all my fault.....I'm a techyphobe and have had a lot of problems trying to sort out the website...but have no fear, Ben has made it idiot proof for me so I'm good to go.....ok! I still had a few problems, but here I am, writing away, I even sorted out dragging the edit box into place without anyone telling me that's what I have to do.....go me! not bad for an old gal chair woman!.....I can't find out how to put photo's in myself yet so once photo's do appear on this blog, that means my Hubbs has got involved....what a gem he is!
Yes it's me, Jacs, Madam Chairwoman :-D I have a lot to tell you. WE WON THE PEOPLES MILLIONS....wooohoooo! What a day that was! I cried....quite a bit actually, the emotion of it all just came tumbling out, we started our journey in February and it had been hard work, once I pulled myself together we all danced and cheered very loudly. We were on TV again accepting the cheque and the tears came again. The cheque was huge and 7 months on is still stuck to our coffee bar.
So....what have we done with the money. Well, after numerous going wrongs with trying to claim it, we finally got there. The down side of it all was that we got burgled twice, we think people thought we had won and somehow the money was on site, or we'd bought something worth stealing, but the burglaries happened Jan and Feb but we didn't get the first lot of money until March and that was in the bank. With the first lot of money we paid for an alarm system, 4 more cameras for our cctv, an Epos system till (the burglars stole our old till) the front cobbles stone forecourt to be dug up and relaid as brickweave, kitchen equipment and a new computer for admin. next on the agenda is a smart board and an add on to the new Epos system so we can have memberships.....watch out for our membership deals, we're quite excited about these. Another thing we have started to pay for is 2 members of staff to be employed to run the coffee bar, these are Becky and Nathan. Becky is mornings and brings fun and laughter to the Centre, making things lively and perks up our day. Nathan is more sedate and helps calm things down for the afternoon giving a chilled atmosphere to wind your day down nicely.
We had some sad news that one of our regular service users passed away, this is Martin. He came to us daily for 2 cups of Cuppacino and a good old chat to everyone. R.I.P Martin, the Centre is not the same without you.
If you come into the Centre now, you will see we have been busy. My brainwaves have been let loose again, the staff run for cover when that happens! One of those brainwaves was after the hand washing sink was fitted, we were left with a large piece of work top so I thought, hey, lets extend the coffee bar.....genius don't you think....eyes started rolling because I may have these brainwaves but I can't do them myself but Jackie our shop manageress can...she's amazing, give her a screwdriver and a hammer and Bob The Builder move aside. Off she went with her husband Charlie and by the end of the day, the counter had been extended....what a gem. Then, even more impressive, she went to British Heart Foundation and brought back 2 glass fronted display cabinets (Thank you BHF) She then strategically placed them in the shop area and covered the top with yet another piece of counter top we had just lying around, (ok, it was actually in use out the back.....but we'd address the that being missing later) it was even cut to make a corner. What a woman! The smile on her face when she got out the spirit level and it was all as it should be, was priceless. We now have a new pink till with sparklies on it for the shop area. There's 2 reasons for a shop counter and til. 1, it stops people taking second hand goods to the coffee bar where food and drinks are being served and 2 it helps our work experience people feel more like they're learning how to be in a shop environment. We have Teresa, Paula and Dean manning that till now.
We have had The Ashley School youngsters come to us for work experience recently. Unfortunately, by the time their assessor had come to do a risk assessment on us, it was too late to let them have a proper work experience time but they have managed 2 weeks which has been fun. What a great bunch they have been too, they have shown enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. A few have asked to come back in the summer hols to carry on which is great.
Another great thing we have done is get involved with "Talent Match" This is where the government pay the wage of a youngster to work somewhere for 6 months. We found Bryn through this scheme and he has been great. We have him doing Admin on opposite shifts to Ben and it's working out so well that we have him looking for funding for us to keep him going.....and yeay!....he's found some, not only for him but for Becky and Nathan too. We're in the process of applying for that so fingers crossed.
I would like to also share with you the 13 of us took an 8 week course recently on "The principles of working with people with learning disabilities......and we all passed,....yeay! well done us. It wasn't easy and we were all pleased that we did the same training together, we had a choice of about 10 different courses and Ben's brainwave was that for our first, maybe we should do the same thing so we could help each other....good call, it was a lot tougher than we expected but we al did it. I am so proud of our team. We are regathering the troops to decide which courses we're going to take now......we're getting brave because we're going for different ones...eeeek!.....I have every faith we will all do well.
What a exciting day we had. We Knew the cameras were coming in today and have been sorting out the Centre to accommodate them. Half an hour before they get there, a company we have been waiting for to turn up for months, to do some revamp work on our building actually came today...yeay!...erm...quick explanation was in order and I had to leave them to it to decide what there first job was going to be! We were told the camera peeps would stay all day. So me being me tried to be all organized, I wrote out a order of what should be filmed when and where and who should be in the shots...well that all went out the window. The two really lovely ladies turned up and said they could only stay one hour and forty five minutes....eeeekk!
Plan b was put in action...wing it! The buzz created in the Centre because the plan was gone, was electric. I had to phone people up who were set to come after lunch and ask if they could get there NOW!! It was chaos but in a good way. Everyone was laughing and having fun. We got some great photo's and lots of film that we were doing ourselves.Lisa and Teresa had set up arts and crafts which got filmed right away. They made some lovely Christmas gifts...which incidentally are now on sale. I am so proud of how everyone pulled together and got on with it. Just as I thought we'd cracked it with a new plan, the electrician turned up who we'd been waiting for to repair a lighting problem. We needed the lights so let him get on with it.
"Where should we film now" said Kate the camera woman. Lorenzo's fabulous art course. So off we trot into the art room and was faced with electrician man up a ladder right in the way!!....OooooKay!!...Andy the story teller it is then!!
Jackie our shop manageress had spent weeks sorting out all our stock and with the help of a few others, she emptied the back room which had been a total mess and I mean a really big total mess!!. I wanted this cleared (and yes I helped too) so we could use it as it was intended and that was to be a quiet, relaxing space where our office is and the quiet corner. Andy the story teller was set up in here and ready to be filmed. I quickly shot back into the front room to gather people to sit around and listen. He had prepared a short story, I didn't expect the whole thing to be filmed, but he was so engaging with everyone, the whole thing was captured....If we win the money, he is going to be a part of our weekly activities.
After the story, I opened the door in hope that the electrician was gone and ....yeay he had! phew! on to Lorenzo's art course. This was hilarious. Lorenzo had set up easels with already finished paintings on and they had to pretend to paint. Mostly they did a great job of this but looking at the delicately painted pictures on the easels and seeing our lot whooshing the brush all over it was funny....you had to be there! This is a brilliant art course and one we intend to put on as soon as we get funding. It is a therapy art course all about discovering yourself. I went on it to see if it was right for us and was blown away by it. This one will be great for parents and carers that feel they have lost themselves from being a mum of a child/adult with disabilities....I've been there, I know how hard it can be!
Once that was finished it was back into the front room and filming of more activities. Amanda was there with her jewellery making and there were shots of table top football, Yu-Gi-Oh, computer work and people just having fun. Kate had interviewed Fee and Amanda and was very impressed with what they had to say....I have to wait until 25th of Nov to find out exactly what that was. I had my interview...I have to say, she who loves to chat and loves the camera, just thought...OMG....OMG....OMG...don't forget anything important, don't look away from the interviewer, Don't lick the front of your teeth ( a habit of mine) do smile, do emphasise all the right things....so, consequently, I can't remember one thing I said...I have to wait for the 25th to find out that too! Then came the group shot, we all stood around the art table in our front room and we capture what I think was a great ending to our film. So yes, a great day with great people of who I was extremely proud to be a part of the team.
Well hello to everyone who has taken the time to visit our website. This is the very first blog and I thought I would start by posting the business plan that I put together. I hope you understand it as it is my very first attempt at doing one.
The reason for the business plan is that we're wanting to make big changes at the centre, these changes are going to cost money so we need to go for funding. When I found out I had to do a business plan....yikes! came to mind, but I surprised myself. For the many that don't know our Centre, we're all about being supportive and accepting of everyone and we are prepared to do what it takes to achieve that.
The Centre has been a work in progress. We started off with very little and over the past two and a half years we have built up to a well loved Centre overflowing with things. The snack bar turned into a coffee bar, the activity space was taken over by a shop and we found out that our service users weren't interested in academic courses, they wanted fun activities....so that's what they got!.....and who doesn't like to have fun.
I will keep posting what we have been up to and hopefully I will manage to get others to make some postings too. But for now....get a load of this, make yourself comfy because it's a long one :-D xx
Unity Centre business plan
1. The need we have identified with in our area.
There are many activities in our area for people with a learning difficulty but these come at a cost. We have identified that there are many people in our town who do not qualify for personal grants, so they can’t afford to take part in many of these activities. These are the people with mild/moderate learning difficulties who live alone or with parents/carers. Currently they either stay at home because they don’t feel comfortable or accepted in the mainstream community, or they can only afford one or two activities per week. This can lead to them being isolated, withdrawn from life, loss of self-esteem, confidence, depression and anxieties. Some of them turn to alcohol through boredom and having no sense of self-worth.
We aim to provide a social centre where seven days a week they can come on a drop in basis to mix with friends, take part in activities and have fun which will help them to learn, gain confidence and stave off depression and anxieties. They can also gain work experience (six days a week) in our small café and shop area if they wish, taking the opportunity to gain training and certificates.
Along with this we will provide support with form filling, understanding mail that they have received, legal support, Hate & mate Crime support as well as sign posting to other activities available in our town that they may be interested in.
2 What other groups or services are addressing the need in our area.
At present there are no other groups offering this service free in our area to vulnerable adults who are not in a works related program put on via the job centre. Some offer free work experience to schools and colleges but we aim to give free work experience to people in education and those that are not and tailor it to the individual’s capabilities.
3 The main aim of our group is to:
Provide a social centre for people with a mild/moderate learning difficulty, giving them free work experience in a café & shop environment along with them helping with activities that are being put on in the centre.
4 Our target group is:
People with mild/moderate learning difficulties who live in the community either on their own or with parent/carers. Those that have limited support due to not being learning disabled enough to qualify for personal grants, key workers or social workers. These people fall through the loop of services and can become isolated as they have no outside support or knowledge on how or where to access activities.
5 How will we achieve our aim?
To achieve our aim we plan to apply for funding to rebuild part of our premises so we can build a kitchen that meets building regulations. This will be part of our Café area. Also fit out a shop area, office and quiet room, store rooms and utility area. In these areas we plan to give training/work experience in:
. We would like to employ two part time cooks to share the load over 6 days, so we know there will be someone reliable to work daily instead of a volunteer.
. Kitchen duties, preparing meals, cooking, health and hygiene, menu selection, preparation and execution of High tea,
. The importance of working as a team.
. Coffee bar, serving customers, use of till, making hot beverages.
. Waitressing duties, taking food orders, serving food, customer care, health and hygiene, use of till, use of washing machine when cleaning tea towels, table cloths etc.
. This will help to build self-confidence and helping them to talk to people they don’t know.
. Once a month we will put on a high tea, which will mean table cloths, flowers on the tables, nice crockery and cutlery.
. All people doing work experience will wear a smart uniform which they will learn to wash. Dry and iron themselves in the centre.
. We will have tables inside and out.
. There will also be a comfy sofa seating area for socializing and a more relaxed area.
. We have Key Skills training company who have agreed to come on board with the training. We would like an interactive whiteboard to use to help in training.
. There will be small art items on tables for children, ie colouring activities.
. Work experience will be given in customer service, displaying goods, use of a till, sorting out clothes to what is good enough to sell, needs washing, or bagged up for the rag man.
. They will learn how to use the washing machine and dryer when washing donated clothes.
.Maintaining a clear workplace, pricing goods, using the steamer to iron clothes, learning how to dispose broken goods safely.
.They will get health and safety training in this area.
. Work experience people will be in a casual uniform with a name badge.
.They will become more able to speak with people they don’t know.
This will be seven days a week of different activities mainly in an afternoon. These include,
. Music, we will vary this with, entertainers, bang and crash beat sessions and karaoke.
. Discover yourself through art, a programme designed to help people not only become better at art but to also learn about their feelings, the way they see the world and portray that in an artistic way.
. Interactive storytelling, time to take part in a story using props and making up part of the story yourself.
. Table top games, traditional games ie: ludo, snakes and ladders.
. Group gaming with a Wii and Xbox game consoles which can be done on an interactive white board and we can do team games to help them learn to be part of a team in a fun way.
. Trading card games, these will be run at a weekend, mainstream as well as people with learning difficulties will play together, learn from each other and get the chance to take part in national tournaments in our Konami registered Centre.
. Art activities for youngsters in the school holidays.
They will have the opportunity to join in and help run these activities as well as taking part, even thinking up an activity of their own.
We would like to run an “I’m special too” group once a week for mainstream siblings of a youngster with learning difficulties, where they can come together and socialize. It will be like a youth club for them with other youngsters who know what it is like to live with a sibling with difficulties. There will be activities put on for them to join in with, mentors for them to talk to and a quiet area if they want to relax. There will be trained staff at these groups.
It is often difficult for a youngster having a sibling with any disability. They can either feel left out because the parent/carers time is taken up with their disabled sibling or they are quite often expected to do a lot for the disabled sibling and don’t feel like they have a life away from them or special time for themselves.
We would like to hold weekly groups for Adults on the autistic spectrum, there is nothing in our town at present offering this but there are a lot of people needing this service. This group can take part in activities, socialize, get support and advice from our team as well as work experience if they wish.
All regular service users will have an ID card that they will swipe to register they are attending the centre. For the paid up members this will also be a loyalty card where they can gain points by attendance, joining in an activity, helping out and achieving individual goals we set them, ie not disrupting an activity if they are known to usually do that! These points can be redeemed with goods from the café, ie drinks for a smaller number of points and a full meal if they let the points add up.
This will be an area where people can go for advice, support and information by trained members of staff, in a comfortable confidential environment. General office hours are five mornings a week, 11am-2pm, although enquiries will be dealt with at all times the Centre is open. Some of our entertainment will be in this area during afternoons out of office hours. This gives a relaxed environment with limited distractions to achieve the best out of the activity.
6 Resources already in place to support us.
. We have premises to run the social Centre from, we just need finance to make changes so we can offer more to our community.
.We have a letter of consent from the landlord to make the changes and an agreement to extend the else for up to 25 years if we wish.
. We have 26 volunteers ready to support our changes.
. Chair and Vice chair passed their level 2 diplomas in health and social care in 2013.
. Both are trained third party hate Crime officers and Vice chair is trained in Mate crime too.
. The team have had SOVA training in 2013.
. We are registered C-Card holders to administer free condoms to youngsters.
. Two committee members have certificates in interactive storytelling.
. Five members of the team have training in customer services.
. On staff we have several members that have attended workshops in Safeguarding vulnerable adults,
. We have trained health and safety and first aiders on staff working with volunteers and vulnerable adults.
. We have a committee with 9 members willing to support the changes.
. We have trustees in place who are in agreement with the changes.
. People willing to provide, storytelling, discover yourself through art, music, table top games and trading card games.
. We are a registered Konami games Centre so all trading card games will be run in accordance to international Konami rules and regulations.
. We employ an administration worker to keep all paperwork and our affairs in order.
. We have an accountant.
. We are already a registered charity.
. The organization “Life Skills” have agreed to support us with work experience training.
. The local schools and college are very interested in using us for work experience.
. We have policies in place for Safeguarding, child protection, data protection, fire safety and health and hygiene.
.We have a Trade union rep on our committee.
. We have a committee member who has level 3 art diploma.
. A committee member who has NVQ food safety.
. We have a volunteer who has qualifications in photography, we plan to incorporate this in our activities, encouraging people to take photo records of what they are doing and edit them.
7 Resources still required and how it is to be found.
.To progress from a coffee bar to cafe, we need to remove the counter and build a kitchen area. To do this an existing ‘lean to conservatory’ needs to be knocked down and a brick building built to house a new kitchen equipped with kitchen appliances and utensils. We need adequate ventilation.
. We will need a risk assessment done once all building works have been completed and we are ready to reopen.
. We need tables and chairs for customers. Cutlery and crockery, uniforms for staff and work experience people so they learn what it is like to work in a smart environment and have to look after clothing.
. A second toilet to be built.
. Building work to section off part of a room to make a store room for kitchen area, gaming items and a utility room. This area will need shelving and cupboards to house stock and a set of doors to the utility area in that room.
. Existing doors in the above room to be removed from where they’re located, that bricked up then the doors relocating closer to the office room to provide a new fire exit for the rear of the Centre.
. A second lean to conservatory to be knocked down and a brick building built to store shop items as the existing building leaks. This store room needs to contain shelving and cupboards to house the goods.
. The uneven brick weave flooring outside the front of the Centre needs to be dug up and replaced with flat flooring to make it more accessible for wheelchairs.
. The patio at the back needs digging up and replacing to make it a more appealing area for customers to dine and relax as well as making the floor even for wheelchairs.
. The doors at the front of the building to be replaced with automatic doors and brought inline with the window, for easier access for the disabled.
. Shop fittings and till for the shop area.
. A fire alarm system fitted and fire drill training given to staff.
. Adding more cameras to our existing CCTV package so that all areas are covered.
. Blinds for the front of the Centre so service users don’t feel exposed when doing activities as the front of the Centre is mostly glass.
. New signs for the Centre inside and out so people are clear on what the Centre is about.
. A hot water system which will service the whole building as the current one doesn’t.
. Heating in the front room as there is none at this time.
. The front room needs rewiring.
. The internet cables need extending into the back room from the front so we can move our office area there to allow more privacy for people’s needs.
. A hearing loop system fitted throughout the Centre.
To be able to attain these requirements we would like to apply for funding. At this time we fund ourselves with selling items donated to our shop area and coffee bar.
. We also run fundraisers such as raffles, karaoke nights, fundraiser activity days.
. We have participated in bag packing at local supermarkets to raise money.
.Our Chairwoman raises money by singing as well as visiting women’s groups and giving talks about the Centre for a donation.
. Unity Gaming rent space paying £50 per week, they plan to hold fundraising days to earn more money for us.
. We get small monetary donations from local people and organizations.. We have an annual membership which is £10 per year if they want information posted to them or £5 if they want it by email.
. After attaining funding to go ahead with building works and alterations we plan to make money by selling food and drink in the café and items from our shop. We will continue with all fundraisers we currently put on.
We will charge a small fee of £1 for youngsters to partake in activities while parents are in the café.
8 Publicity and marketing
To publicise our venture we will,
. Put an article in our quarterly newsletter telling our members about it. This newsletter is available in a few outlets in town who have service users with learning difficulties as well as being sent to every member on publication.
. We will advertise it on our Facebook page where we have over 1,500 friends,
. We will place an article about us in the local newspaper.
, We will advertise on the local radio.
. Word and mouth will be very valuable advertising.
. We will let the local council know about what we are doing so they can add us to their list of organizations for people with a learning difficulty who want to know where they can go.
. We will publish leaflets with all the information about us on and distribute them to local organizations where the target group we are looking for may go, ie schools, colleges, library, Drs, sports centre.
.Our Chair raises awareness by giving talks to women’s groups as well as singing in the town where she talks and tells people about the Centre.
9 Time table/action plan.
Quotes still needed
2 more for all building work
Shop fitters & new kitchen
Heating & hot water system
Fire alarm system
4 more cameras on existing CCTV
Interactive whiteboard & computers
A hearing loop system installed
Other things needed
Deciding a menu then costing the food needed.
Have risk assessment in place
Extend current lease to at least 10 years.