It is the Big Society brought to life and a testament to the hard-fought campaign by people across the Midhurst and Petworth area to preserve day-care services.
It came as a bombshell when West Sussex County Council announced, out of the blue, it was closing its social services day-care service in Midhurst and caused universal outrage from those who relied on the service to volunteers, church minister, carers and town and parish councillors.
There was no re-think – instead it resulted in the formation of Rother Valley Together, a band of volunteers determined to take over the role and carry on providing day care.
The pioneering group became one of the first community groups in the county to commission its own services when Age UK came on board to bring back day care to the Midhurst and Petworth area.
Age UK Day activities at the Grange Leisure Centre in Midhurst opened for business on December 12 and two months on there are more than 50 members with more enquiries every day.
But the Age UK service co-ordinators Ali Rummey and Michael Clifton are sure there are many more people out there they have not yet reached.
Current members come mainly from Midhurst although there are regulars from Petworth, Lurgashall, South Harting, Rogate and as far away as Plaistow, Fernhurst and Northchapel.
“We have a minibus to transport people and we are trying to bring them in from all over the area,” said Ali.
They have informed doctors’ surgeries and community nurses. They have placed notices in parish magazines and on noticeboards and put posters in shops, and word of mouth has played its part.
“But we are struggling to reach the people we are trying to help, although we know they are all out there.”
Age UK is quick to emphasise its day activities are not just for elderly people. “It is aimed at everyone over 50 who is lonely, fed up and wants to meet people and have a good meal and do some new activities,” said Ali.
“It’s all about getting out and being with people instead of sitting alone all the time watching daytime television.”
The main focus of the centre is the Liberty Hall where centre members gather for a chat, play games and have a hot lunch.
In the crafts room there is pottery, craft, basket making, weaving and art.
Members can take part in sitting exercise, in ‘mind gym’ mental quizzes and other activities. There is also a book library.
In addition members can take advantage of foot care and hairdressing services during their day out.
Age UK is hoping to run ‘cook and eat’ courses for those who suddenly find themselves on their own and learning to cook for one.
Ali and Michael also have someone who has expressed an interest in running ballroom dancing sessions or tea dances for those who fancy taking to the floor.
“Basically we can offer anything volunteers are prepared to run and members are interested in taking part in,” said Ali.
“We want to hear from enthusiastic volunteers with ideas for classes and clubs, for instance a knitting circle or sewing and singing – and we also want more members who would like to be involved and take part.”