Fundraiser launched to kit out new Highgate Newtown Community Centre

HNCC Wellness Cafe at St Michael’s Church Highgate 02.11.21.
From left volunteer Mrs O’Neill, Siobha

HNCC Wellness Cafe at St Michael’s Church, Highgate. From left volunteer Mrs O’Neill, Siobhan Tazarni, Rev Kunle Ayodeji, HNCC director Andrew Sanalitro, and lunch guests Sheila Prestridge and Mei-Tak Yeh. - Credit: Polly Hancock

Those who can are asked to dig deep to help raise £400,000 to bring a community vision to life in Highgate Newtown.

The Highgate Newtown Community Centre, in Bertram Street, will have a hairdresser, café, lunch clubs, carpentry workshops, a sports hall and much more when it eventually opens its doors next autumn.

Pauline Treen and Stephen Hodge, HNCC ambassador and treasurer

Pauline Treen and Stephen Hodge, HNCC ambassador and treasurer - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

"I like local charities and supporting them and I'm involved with many and this one just stands out," said the centre's ambassador Pauline Treen.

A trustee at the Harington Scheme in Cholmeley Park, Highgate, Pauline said she got involved before the old building was pulled down, met the community, and has been helping and giving support ever since.

"The main reason that the charity stands out is that it's dealing with something that involves so many people, and that's loneliness.

"Loneliness cannot be dealt with with money for the individual, it has to be where someone has the confidence to go somewhere else.

"We deliver food to families, we've been giving food to elderly people. We're the first person they've seen for a week and maybe when the centre's there they'll think 'I'll have the courage to call into the centre and I'll meet someone'.

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"It's a snowballing effect: You must create these relationships in the community to persuade people to use this wonderful community centre which when it's built it's going to be amazing for what it supplies.

"Those who have money will be able to pay for it and those who don't will pay very little. It'll be amazing."

HNCC Wellness Cafe at St Michael’s Church Highgate 02.11.21.Organiser Larraine Revah Camden Council

Organiser Larraine Revah Camden councillor and Older People’s Lead, with lunchtime attendees Christopher Cooke and Martin McManus at the HNCC Wellness Cafe at St Michael’s Church, Highgate - Credit: Polly Hancock

The centre was demolished last year as part of Camden Council’s plans to replace the building with 41 homes as part of its Community Investment Programme (CIP).

Chief executive Andrew Sanalitro, said: "We all take our hats off to Camden Council. The council has invested £6.4million into the new centre and kept it premium build.

"For any local authority to spend that kind of money, I feel blessed and privileged that we've got that investment secured but we do need the money to kit it out." 

Many of the centre's services were moved out to different places including St Anne's Church, St Michael's Church, Brookfield Primary School, Channing School and places in neighbouring Islington where they will still be provided as "those communities want it sustained now they've got it," Andrew said.

Stephen Hodge, former president of the Highgate Literary Society, was asked by Andrew to come on board as the charity secretary and treasurer five years ago.

He said services at the new centre such as a launderette and hairdressers will be offered at cost price and art, pottery, cooking and exercise classes will either be free at the point of access or heavily subsidised for those on lower income.

The café will serve fresh, affordable food, "enabling those who eat by themselves day after day to share a meal with others".

HNCC Wellness Cafe at St Michael’s Church Highgate 02.11.21.
The team behind HNCC Wellness Cafre.

The team behind HNCC Wellness Cafre. From left Andrew Sanalitro director of HNCC, chef Tracy Stinton, organiser Cllr Larraine Revah and Older People's host Benny Revah. - Credit: Polly Hancock

"We are raising money to create a welcoming, high-quality facility which brings people together and gives them, those who struggle financially, opportunities they would not have elsewhere," he said.

"We want people to feel valued when they are in the building, and that they deserve quality.

"Although there are fairly high profile people within half a mile with politicians, actors and so on, just around the community centre there are some really deprived places," he said.

"Giving them, which is part of Andrew's vision, a really top class centre which will provide them with the kind of services they need is very exciting."

He said anyone willing to come on board as trustees to get in touch as the team really need "people willing to do things."

Andrew added: "There's a real challenge ahead to get the formula right. There's a perception we're getting a lovely building but we've got substantial costs, like the free play scheme. 

"There's a really hard battle to get this right and we'll be judged very harshly if we get this wrong."

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