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Popular community hall receives help to stay open

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Grassacres Hall in Westbury is a vital hub for many groups, such as Alzheimer’s Support’s cafe

A COMMUNITY hall that is a vital meeting place for dozens of groups is being helped to keep its doors open by a coronavirus fund grant.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation has awarded the Westbury Welfare of the Elderly Association, which runs the Grassacres Hall, £4,000 from its Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to help cover its running costs after its income plummeted during lockdown and has continued to be affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

The hall is used by dozens of clubs, voluntary groups and organisations every year and the income helps pay for its running costs and upkeep of the hall. Being forced to close it in March, but still having to find running costs has wiped away much of its cash reserves.

Chairman of trustees Sue Ezra said, “The hall lost all of its rent income when we closed in March. We still have to pay the gas, the electric, the phone and the cleaning so I was very grateful for the grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation, it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Before the pandemic the 40-year-old hall was used regularly by groups aimed at all ages, including the White Horse Day Centre lunch club, Alzheimer’s Support’s Westbury Café, rainbows, ballet classes and U3A. It charges just £10 an hour, which puts it within reach of many of the groups who could not afford to go elsewhere.

“Because of the restrictions many of the clubs can’t use the hall now,” said Sue. “We still have the Tai Chi and the Westbury Café run by the Alzheimer’s Society and we do have the Rainbows coming back. The Townswomen’s Guild have said they may not come back at all, so we have lost a lot of money.”

She said the lunch club which provides a three-course meal and entertainment for more than 25 regular members is much missed. “When we told the members of the White Horse Day Centre we were opening up to them, they were so excited, but we had to tell them they couldn’t come back because of the spacing – it was terrible, but we can’t take the chance.

“It’s such a shame because the club is company for them, and they also get a proper home-cooked hot meal. We need the hall to be here for them because without it, they would have to find somewhere else to go and not many halls can cook that number of meals.”

The group estimates it has lost more than £4,000 in revenue since March and had to pay more than £500 to make it Covid-19 safe before it re-opened at the end of the summer.

“We are having to pay for extra cleaning each time the hall is used and have had to buy more equipment,” said Sue

She added that members of the trustees, including secretary Christine Mitchell and treasurer Peter Baker had been working flat out to keep the hall running.

“We desperately want to keep the hall going because people rely on it. There aren’t many places in Westbury like this and without the hall many of these groups would struggle to find somewhere else to meet,” she said.

To find  out more about the group search for Westbury Welfare of the Elderly Association on Facebook.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund has raised £1.1million and distributed more than £850,000 to more than 200 groups so far. Interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said, “These clubs and the opportunity to meet are hugely important in communities like Westbury and it is essential they return as soon as possible, so we are pleased to fund Westbury Welfare for the Elderly Association and hope everyone can eventually get back to seeing their friends. Part of what our fund is about is helping communities recover from the pandemic and helping to ensure these clubs survive is key to that.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.

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