End of an era for Nunsthorpe community centre
A COMMUNITY group is cleaning out the last belongings from its home of nine years – but there's light at the end of the tunnel.
It is the end of an era for Nunsthorpe Together, which will hand over the keys for St Martin's Church Hall, its base since it started as the St Martin's Action Group, back in 2004.
However, Debbie Hill, who founded the group with husband Steve, has made an agreement with Grange Together to hold some of their activities at their community centre, in Carnforth Crescent.
The new centre will host dance lessons on Saturdays and bingo three evenings a week, so that the people who have formed a bond at the Nunsthorpe centre still have somewhere to go.
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Debbie said: "We've lived and worked here for nine years and you can't simply shut the door on the community.
"I'm saddened at the way things have gone and seeing the hall nearly empty is very upsetting, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel."
St Martin's Community Action Group was set up in 2004 in St Martin's Church, to provide a hub for residents of the Nunsthorpe estate and helped many turn their lives around.
It was behind the hugely successful, but now defunct, Funhouse project, which received Government praise in 2005, with antisocial behaviour tsar Louise Casey describing those involved as national examples.
However, the project ran into difficulties and, in December 2008, the Funhouse shut its doors for good.
Nunsthorpe Together, as it was known by that point, continued to hold community activities, such as bingo, dance classes and go-karting in the church hall at the back of the property.
But in October last year, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) claimed it was owed £140,000 in unpaid rent and maintenance costs for the use of the hall.
The group, which did not have enough funds to pay the costs, had no choice but to leave and are now moving – and discarding – the last of its property.
Mrs Hill, who was employed as the site manager, said: "Clearing this place out is a heartbreaking job.
"All of this stuff has a story and is full of sentimental value, so it is really hard to just throw it in a skip."
But there's one thing Debbie and husband Steve – who is no longer officially a part of Nunsthorpe Together because of health issues – cannot bear to see thrown away.
They are now looking for a home for the life-size Santa's sleigh, complete with reindeer, which has paraded around the Nunsthorpe estate every Christmas Eve since 2004.
Mr Hill said: "This sleigh belongs to the people of the Nunsthorpe, so we need to find someone who can keep this tradition alive.
"Every year, children mob the sleigh and you can see their faces filled with joy – it's so rewarding to see.
"We need to find someone with enough space to give it a home so that it can still make that trip on Christmas Eve."
St Martin's Church was unavailable for comment.
If you can give the sleigh a home, contact the Telegraph on 01472 360360 before Wednesday, when the group have to hand back keys to the hall – or it will have to be thrown away.
Bingo classes now take place at the Grange Community Centre, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, fom 7.30pm.
Dance classes take place, from noon to 2pm, on Saturdays at the same place.