A charity which started life as a protest about the closure of a village care home is celebrating its first 10 years in which it has grown into a vital community resource.
The Duchess of Northumberland will be attending an event on Thursday, marking a decade since the Bell View Community Resource Centre and five specially-adapted bungalows for older people opened in Belford.
Bell View 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.
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 launched a public consultation, which led to ambitious plans for a new community resource centre and housing scheme.
The county council agreed to transfer the Bell View site to the group, now registered as a charity, and work began to raise funds for the innovative scheme.
From a starting point of £2,000, the charity and its growing army of volunteers raised £1.4million between 2001 and 2003.
Chris Leyland, the original Bell View chairman, said: “The building and the plans took a few years to get to the stage to knock the old one down and get the new one up and running.
“There was a hardcore team of myself and around four or five others.
“I now drive past it every day and the car park seems to be getting fuller and fuller on a daily basis.
“It’s great to see that it is so busy now and wonderful to see how well they are doing.”
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 it runs as Bell View Care Ltd, offering 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.
Current chairman, Christine Harris, 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 a rural area where public transport is few and far between.”
The 10-year anniversary celebrations at the Bell View Resource Centre take place from 5pm to 8pm on Thursday, June 12.