A charity which started life as a protest about the closure of a Belford care home is celebrating 10 years in which it has grown into a vital community resource.
Bell View Community Resource Centre and five specially adapted bungalows for older people opened in 2004.
A decade on, it now runs a large and expanding range of services for older people and their carers, from lunch clubs and community transport to a new Help at Home Scheme, all designed to help older people to remain living in their own homes and combat rural isolation.
To mark the occasion, a celebratory event with the Duchess of Northumberland in attendance is being held tonight (Thursday) between 5pm and 8pm.
Bell View chairman Christine Harris said: “The excitement is not just about surviving 10 years which we’ve done, but that we have thrived within this time.”
The charity was born out of a community protest at Northumberland County Council’s plans to close Bell View Care Home in 1997.
The following year, when the home closed, the Friends of Bell View announced ambitious plans for a new community resource centre and housing scheme.
From a starting point of £2,000, the charity and its growing army of volunteers raised £1.4m between 2001 and 2003 - including an incredible £800,000 from individual donations and community fundraising.
Initially offering services and support for older people including social activities, exercise, arts, crafts and community transport, Bell View has continued to expand.
In 2008, the charity bought a day care business, which offers day care five days a week from the resource centre.
The scheme provides 80 places a week, providing support both for people funded by Northumbria Healthcare Trust and those who pay privately.
Last year, the home care wing, Bell View Help at Home, was added. The initiative provides help for people in their own homes, allowing them to live independently for as long as possible.
Christine said: “Bell View makes a massive difference to older people’s lives, both in Belford itself and out across the wider community.
“Isolation and loneliness is a real issue for people, and it’s even more of a problem when you live in rural area where public transport is few and far between.
“Bell View’s wide range of services, from our BRINGO community transport to our luncheon clubs and activities, provides practical assistance for people to help them to live fulfilling and independent lives.
“Bell View is all about promoting choice for people and giving them access to services and information. It’s about supporting carers, too, and we involve the whole community in what we do.”
Bell View has just six full time and 19 part-time staff but around 50 volunteers mean the charity is able to run the full complement of services.
“It is only with the support of our volunteers and our dedicated managers, that we can continue to develop,” said Christine.