A WELLBEING centre will be able to give a warmer welcome than ever to children and adults with special educational needs thanks to a £5,000 grant from a North-East building society.

The donation from Darlington Building Society – as part of its pledge to donate five per cent of profits to good causes – has been used to install central heating at the Senses Wellbeing Centre, in Skelton.

The centre was launched as a community interest company after self-employed fitness instructor Karen Winspear had a “lightbulb moment” when she came across a unit on Skelton Industrial Estate, in East Cleveland, in 2018.

Karen’s idea was to turn the former joinery workshop into a purpose-built wellbeing centre that would support every age and ability, delivering accessible inclusive sessions, including sensory play, immersive 4d sensory cinema, and music therapy.

Having worked with adults and children with special educational needs, and older adults with dementia, she had seen the lack of local provision of somewhere safe and suitable for people who often experience barriers to fitness.

Karen signed for the premises on February 1 last year and launched a fund-raising drive to develop the centre.

“Local businesses and tradesmen kindly donated their time, and the Tees Valley community were outstanding,” she said.

Karen was applying for as many grants as possible, and posting on Facebook, when another resident in her village, Lisa Sidgwick, saw her story. Lisa, who is manager of Darlington Building Society’s Redcar and Northallerton branches, initially offered to hold a couple of raffles to raise money to help.

Everything stopped in March when Covid-19 hit, but Karen was surprised and delighted to get a call from Lisa, just before Christmas, telling her that the Society had approved the £5,000 grant.

It meant that she could install central heating, ensuring that the venue offered a warm and welcoming environment for everyone.

“I was a blubbering mess,” said Karen. “The space was freezing cold, but this grant has now given us somewhere that’s not just purpose-built for able bodies, but warm and inviting for wheelchair-users, older adults who need a warmer environment, and our Special Educational Needs (SEN) population at all of our various sensory sessions.”

Although the centre is currently closed because of coronavirus, Karen is looking forward to the day when it reopens.

Lisa Sidgwick said: “Senses Wellbeing Centre does such amazing work in our local community and it was wonderful to be able to call Karen and tell her about the £5,000 grant that is going to make the world of difference.”

For more information about, and to support, Senses Wellbeing Centre, go to: http://senseswellbeingcentre.co.uk and www.facebook.com/Senseswellbeingcentre/