How did it all begin?
The Society was launched in April 1978 by a group of parents frustrated about the lack of provision for their children who were affected by various learning disabilities.
The society came under the National Mencap umbrella and later expanded into Junior Gateway established by Alison Steeds. As members reached the age of 18 however, there was no opportunity for social activity and so Ali started 18+ with small groups meeting in the car park, to go to the pub, bowling, golfing, treasure hunting etc. with their friends. She even obtained a mini-bus to transport the members to the activities. Committee meetings were held in Ali’s living room and she ran the office from home too, applying for grants, arranging club nights, outings and even holidays.
Eventually, as the Society grew to six evening clubs, a football club and incorporated Radstock Junior Gateway it had to move to bigger premises with an office at Bath Hill. They took on a second member of staff, George Field, painted the walls and put up shelves. They were donated a computer and gladly received donations for anything else they could use.
‘I joined the Society because I wanted to be involved in any activity which would improve the opportunities for my daughter. I met dedicated, tenacious parents who wanted the same for their children and young adults. ‘In subsequent years the society has grown to the very professional outfit we see today, providing social clubs and activities for many children and adults with learning disabilities.’
Sue Jeffery Trustee
Where is it now?
The society now runs 10 different projects, offering its members (from 5 to 65 years) a broad range of opportunities in order to expand their prospects, adopt healthy lifestyles and provide vital friendship and social experiences. It is keen to continue to develop its services for existing and future members so that their improved confidence can maximise their capability to enjoy a meaningful role in the community.
‘Building on essential life skills, introducing more varied activities to our programme and increasing our support is in the forefront of everything we do. We enable our members to further develop the tools needed to become more self-sufficient and broaden their horizons. We are proud to say that a number of our adult members now have the confidence to live independently in supported housing, work in employed or voluntary positions and enjoy meaningful relationships.’
Laura Jefferies, Operations manager.
“This year the society is celebrating 40 years and to mark the occasion they will be hosting a grand celebration event at the Keynsham Rugby Club. ‘This event is to celebrate how far we have come, what we have achieved in our 40 years and most importantly, an opportunity for us to say thank you to all our supporters. There have been so many people over the years that have either given up their time to help our members, fundraised for us or have supported our fundraising efforts”.
Amanda Leonard, Fundraiser.
“The event will be held on Saturday 16th June 2018 between 1pm and 6pm ‘We anticipate 300 people will attend during the afternoon, they will be able to enjoy food and refreshments, lots of fun activities, live music and dancing. We are looking to cater for all ages and provide some great entertainment.”
“My son has been involved with the Society for over 25 years. His club nights were and still are the highlight of his week when he meets and has fun with his friends. The confidence that they have gained through exploring new experiences, environments and activities, have helped to equip them for life’s challenges.
I look forward to the next chapter in our development to meet the broadening needs of our members in the future”.
Lisa O’Brien, Chair of Trustees