Mencap centre in need of help

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In 1973 a centre which supports people with learning disabilities was created in Darley Dale.

Almost 40 years later, Matlock and District Mencap Society is still hosting its valuable service at the site in Greenaway Lane.

Jackie Tunnicliffe, honorary secretary of Mencap in Darley Dale, has been involved with the centre for over 30 years.

Jackie was put in touch with the charity when her disabled son Jonathan Shimwell was three-years-old.

She said: “I was a young mum with a child that was disabled.

“It took a while for me to get my head around that but Matlock Mencap gave me tremendous support.

“I wanted to put something back and over the years, and still at this time, I have been involved with fundraising.

“We are all volunteers and don’t get any lottery grants so we do rely on donations.”

Mencap is the leading UK charity for people with a learning disability and their families.

The charity offers information and advice as well as running care services and groups and supporting people with a learning disability to be part of their local communities.

Jackie said: “It really is such an important service. For most of them it is their night out.

“People are always coming up to me in the street to say what a wonderful job the centre does and to thank the team.

“We really do rely on volunteers and have a great team. Without them we could not function. One of the Darley Dale centre’s biggest financial boosts comes from the annual Festival of Transport, hosted in the town in Church Lane.

Jackie and her son Jonathan, who is now 40, help organise the event, which raises thousands of pounds for the charity each year.

Last year’s event saw record crowds flock to the fair, which boasted over 600 vehicles and a host of attractions.

Jackie said the charity was looking for volunteers who could help out at the festival, which will take place on September 10 and September 11.

Jobs will include parking marshalling, keeping traffic flowing and helping with the food and drinks marquee.

The centre is also looking for volunteer drivers for the charity’s minibus, which transports members from across the area to the centre for the weekly meetings.

Currently there are three drivers but at least two more are needed.

The meetings, on Thursday from 7pm to 9pm, sees around 40 members – ranging in ages from 20 to 68 – attend with about 12 volunteers helping out.

Members enjoy tea and biscuits and take part in a wide array of activities from arts and crafts to drumming lessons.

Snooker, table tennis and bingo are also available and visiting speakers host presentations and demonstrations and members also work in the centre’s workshop producing bird boxes.

The charity is looking for a volunteer with an interest in woodwork or crafts to help out in the workshop.

Jackie said: “The members are like an extension of my family. It really is such a friendly place to be and members make you feel so welcome – they are just such a great bunch.”

She added: “I don’t want anybody to feel they have got to make a regular commitment or that they have to come every week. We would be grateful of any time people can spare.

“People can come along and see what we do and then decide if they want to come back.”

Matlock and District Mencap Society meets during school term times.

To get involved contact Jackie on 07831316582.

n If you would like to be featured in the Mercury’s Lend a Hand campaign, which aims to get more people in the area volunteering, contact us by emailing news@matlockmercury.co.uk.