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.’
Where is it now?
The society now runs 9 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 45 years and to mark the occasion we will be hosting a celebration event at the Riverside Inn, Saltford. ‘This event is to celebrate how far we have come, what we have achieved in our 45 years and most importantly, an opportunity for us to say thank you to all our supporters.”
Clare Anderson, Fundraiser.
“For 45 years we have been going from strength to strength with the help of our wonderful supporters – we really couldn’t do this without you! Being able to offer such amazing opportunities through a broad range of clubs held regularly and locally for all ages from 5 onwards is just wonderful. I’m a regular volunteer myself and I get to support the joy our members experience first hand at the weekly clubs, on day trips/events and even holidays. There is really nothing better than being involved in helping this wonderful charity grow and deliver the services we do. To every fundraiser, supporter, parent/carer, staff member, volunteer and most importantly our members thank you so much for being here… onwards and upwards!”
Kath Dawson, Chair.