Since it opened in 1982, the New Wortley Community Centre has become an important facility for more than 600 people in one of the most deprived areas of Leeds. Open 70 hours a week, the centre gives local people – 29% of whom claim out of work benefits – a place to meet, learn new skills to get back into employment, receive mental health support, and improve social cohesion through volunteering. Power to Change’s £210,000 grant allowed the existing centre to be transformed into a health and wellbeing centre and a café, offering a hot meal delivery service and more. “It isn’t just about the income,” said CEO Andrea Edwards. “It’s about the opportunities it brings for people.”
An opportunity for community empowerment
A fully-functioning café in the new building – coupled with the catering kitchen in the original building – has allowed the community centre to provide new services, such as a hot meal delivery service and cooking lessons.
The centre has established strong partnerships with several local establishments, such as Helping Hands and Leeds Mind, so it can continue its mission to support those dealing with mental health issues. As a member of the Livewell Leeds projects, the centre offers various opportunities to socialise, such as table tennis and board game sessions, an evening class in creative writing, and cookery lessons. These activities give the community a place to find a friendly ear and enjoy enriching activities.
Covid-19 – coping with the challenges and adapting post lockdown
While pausing its room hire was financially difficult, the centre was able to retain its core funding and secure additional funding by becoming the Community Care Hub for Armley. It was also able to host Covid-safe events, thanks to its large windows and doors that let plenty of fresh air in.
Partnered with so many local organisations, CEO Andrea Edwards comments that the centre is now “seen very much as reliable pair of hands” – so it’s hardly surprising that when the pandemic hit, many turned to the community centre for support. The community café was also adapted into a hot meal delivery service, ensuring those without adequate cooking facilities at home were still able to enjoy hot food.
The future of the community centre
Thanks to projects such as the Cultural Café on Fridays, where locals come together and enjoy international dishes cooked by, and celebrating, people from different backgrounds, the community centre is actively working on becoming more diverse and welcoming to all.
After providing food parcels during the pandemic, one of the community centre’s most exciting new ventures is its pantry-style project: the Food Store. It will allow those experiencing food poverty to purchase the ingredients for a meal for six for just £1.50.