I was privileged this week to attend the AGM of the Balsall and Berkswell Jubilee Project. For those unfamiliar, this is a charity that runs a community centre in the heart of Balsall Common to ‘provide facilities for recreation and leisure, in the interests of social welfare’ for the benefit of local residents.
I was invited as a follow up to having given some advice on constitutional matters, about a year ago. At the time, the charity was all too aware that the premises were looking tired and ceased to be well used as a result of which it was running at a loss. There was a choice between closure and transformation .
However, there was a determination to succeed in the latter and the reports to the AGM underlined just how successful that had been. The drive, energy, ambition and determination that the committee had when I met with them a couple of times had borne the most remarkable fruit in an astoundingly short time.
In less than a year, having recruited a few new Trustees, appointed a new Chair and converted from an unincorporated charity to a CIO:
- the premises have been changed, almost unrecognisably, to one to be proud of;
- a significant number of new activities for local people have been started and are running regularly
- sufficient income is now coming in to make ends meet.
Inevitably there is much work still to do, more unmet demand for activities, a need to sustain and grow income levels and build sufficient reserve for future storms and other challenges. However, there is momentum, a portfolio of tangible achievements and demonstrable social value to show from the hard work invested, all of it on a voluntary basis.
For me, this is an exemplar, but one of a host of community run assets in our borough, many operating on challenging financial footings by the goodwill, energy and drive of volunteers which make a real difference in people’s lives through the activities provided in neighbourhoods, contributions to social inclusion and community cohesion, health and wellbeing.
These assets, the buildings and the volunteers, are the bedrock of social action in our neighbourhoods and are worthy of our support and encouragement, and we should celebrate their successes.