'Donate to Highgate Newtown Community Centre's appeal'

Robert Aitken is chair of Highgate Newtown Community Centre

Robert Aitken is chair of Highgate Newtown Community Centre - Credit: Robert Aitken

This past two years has been a real test of resilience for all of us and I am particularly proud of staff at Highgate Newtown Community Centre for stepping up to the mark, despite all obstacles in their way, to help look after some of those in our community who have really needed our support, whether through meals on wheels, food parcels, games to distract young children, collecting needed medicines or just a friendly checking up phone call.

Our active volunteer base swelled magnificently to the challenge to the benefit of those receiving help but also to the volunteers themselves in a real demonstration of community spirit. 

While the worst of lockdown may be over we have a way to go before normality returns. Meanwhile, we are trying to operate a normal service so far as possible. Ours is a much broader community based operation than it was before our centre was shut for redevelopment. It is currently offered at five different churches in mutually beneficial partnerships with those churches. In addition we are exploring whether we can involve a local mosque given our community demographic, as well as undertaking an education project in partnership, starting with Brookfield Primary and Channing schools. 

If our fundraising to fit out the new community centre Camden are building on the site of our old centre is successful, we would hope to move into the new centre towards the end of next year while maintaining our existing partnerships embedded within the community. This fundraising is proving hard but we have made a reasonable start, raising over £200k. However time is now tight if we are to get everything needed to get a new centre up and running by the end of next year or early 2023.

Our vision is to offer our community a quality five-star product of which they can feel proud, and which will provide a very special set of offerings particularly for those who would not normally be able to enjoy such facilities.

We have teamed up with the Designers Guild to achieve the look and feel we would like everyone to enjoy.

These will include a cafe based in the spacious ground floor reception area, a subsidised hairdresser/barber, subsidised laundry, a cook school which might well be a place to come and socialise, learn about using fresh ingredients, cook a meal which could be enjoyed with new friends on site, a pottery school and a wellness suite (massage/nails etc).

The team behind HNCC Wellness Cafre. From left Andrew Sanalitro director of HNCC, chef Tracy Stinton

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

None of this will be possible unless we can raise the necessary funds and we have about £400k still to go to achieve this vision.

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The new centre is a major investment by Camden who have been very supportive and are building 41 flats (including seven for key workers) to pay for the build. The flats are already at second floor level on the building site at Bertram Street. 

However, the fit out of the new centre is down to us by agreement with Camden. The centre in addition has to stand on its own feet financially and necessarily will be expensive to run as it will be open seven days a week early till late. We cannot subsidise it with our other community based operations which already only just cover their costs.

We have very much appreciated the support given by many organisations (including this paper for our capital appeal) and individuals but as mentioned we have a long way to go before it is clear that we have a viable product. We very much hope that generosity of spirit will turn into hard cash for us to meet our target. With you help we feel well placed to achieve our goal for the long term benefit of our (and your) community.

To donate visit https://www.highgatenewtown.org.uk/ 

Robert Aitken is chair of Highgate Newtown Community Centre.

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