Blowin’ our own Trumpet: Leominster Meeting Centre celebrates after receiving £ 96,620 from the National Lottery to help local people living with dementia and family members/carers

Leominster Meeting Centre is today celebrating after being awarded £96,620 in National Lottery funding to support its work over the next three years with local people living with dementia and family carers.

The Meeting Centre is open each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10.00 to 3.00 at The Old Priory in Leominster, Herefordshire. It is essentially a social club which is entirely led by the interests of members and which helps people and their families adjust to living with dementia by facilitating a range of activities, outings, exercise, educational sessions for carers, one-to-one meetings, peer support and fun! Members really enjoy coming to the Meeting Centre and are very proud of it, hence the name they came up with for the project, Blowin’ our own Trumpet!

Leominster Meeting Centre has been running since February 2016 and is staffed by a dedicated team managed by Joy Valentini. Around 16 to 20 people attend each day, with some coming one day a week and others two, three or four times. It has become a vital part of the local community, welcoming many visitors and participating widely in local events and initiatives.

The new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will help provide more certainty over the next three years and a stable environment that will contribute to the Centre’s members and carers health and wellbeing.

The funding will also enable the Meeting Centre to continue to share its experience and help develop best practice with the wider dementia community through the Centre’s participation in the National Lottery funded UK Meeting Centres Support Programme (UKMCSP) by hosting visits to Centre from visitors across the UK which are interested in setting up a Meeting Centre in their local area. The experience gained will also enable the Centre to build a strong evidence base for this and other Meeting Centres to present to local and national funders and influence policy makers/commissioners in order to build a lasting legacy from the National Lottery funding.

Phillipa Bruce-Kerr, Chair of Leominster Meeting Centre charity says: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive this award from the National Lottery Community Fund.  The Meeting Centre receives no funding from local or central government and is entirely dependent on grant and local community fundraising.  It is a testament to the commitment of the staff, members and to the good people of Leominster we are still running and providing such a warm, friendly and supportive environment.  This has been recognised by National Lottery Community Fund whose award is associated with the Leominster Meeting Centre welcoming guests and visitors from all over the UK, with a view to inspiring them to set up their own Meeting Centre.”

Joy Valentini, Manager of Leominster Meeting Centre says:  “I have been associated with the Meeting Centre from its early stages, both as a carer for my husband, who has dementia, and as Manager and a Trustee. The Meeting Centre changed our lives after his diagnosis, from feeling hopelessly isolated to giving us the support to feel confident and enjoy ourselves again. Two years ago I was given the opportunity to manage the day to day running of the Centre. I feel that my first-hand experience has given me the capability to help and support others facing a similar journey, and in the latter stages of my husband’s illness it has given me a new sense of fulfilment and pride in its success.”

Liz Dedman, former business consultant and member of the Centre says: “Before coming to the Centre and since my diagnosis I had withdrawn from my wide circle of friends as I felt I was letting them down. At first I considered going to something like a Meeting Centre slightly embarrassing and an admission of defeat. But since coming here I absolutely love it and it has given me back my confidence, I feel more like my old self. I’ve made new friends and I am back in touch with my old friends.”

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester says: “Meeting Centres are based on solid research about what really helps people and families cope with the challenges that dementia brings. The Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester has been working on this research since 2014. There is tremendous interest across the UK in setting up new Meeting Centres. This funding will ensure that many more communities have the opportunity to visit a fully operational Meeting Centre and to receive practical advice on how to establish their own.”