Our Tameside Reporter Bob Alston is back volunteering at the Grafton Centre – where members have been welcomed back with open arms. Here he tells us about the re-opening and the new normal.
“It was a sad day when the Grafton Centre, Hyde, had to close its doors to our lovely, loyal members on Friday, March 20 due to the announcement by the Government that all non-essential daily activities were to cease as Covid-19 took a very firm hold in England.
“As the Grafton is ‘home’ to over 500 local members enjoying daily activities such as Zumba, Dance, Keep Fit, Reading, Bingo and Tai Chi, to name just a few, it was going to be a great loss to all those regular visitors.
“However, as soon as the Government announced that all social and community centres could open again providing appropriate safety measure were put in place, the Grafton team swung into action to implement the recommendations outlined by the Government in preparation of welcoming their members back again after 16 weeks.
“The Grafton is currently open for just two days a week, on a Monday and Friday. I was there for the opening day on July 13, but I wasn’t prepared for what was to greet me. The team of staff, trustees and volunteers led by Centre Manager Julie Ingham, had done an amazing job putting in place procedures to keep everyone safe as they enter the Grafton once again after so long. These included track and trace forms, hand sanitiser stations, safety notices, and a one-way system for moving around the building and for entry and exit. The team were brilliant at maintaining a welcoming atmosphere as well as having all the safety procedures in place.
“The next surprise was the queue of members forming at the entrance from around 9.30am waiting for the doors to open at 10am. Obviously the members had missed the centre as much as all of us.
“A big thank you goes to local builder, Dominic Bardsley, and our local Morrisons store, as the first week we opened they made donations to ensure our returning members could have free tea, coffee and snacks – and we also gave each visitor a Creative Kit with things to do at home to keep them busy while they were not at the centre.”
Centre Manager Julie added: “To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect on the first day of opening, as a lot of our members fall into the vulnerable category and we thought they may stay away. It was a really pleasant surprise to see so many familiar faces returning to support the centre and I must admit, I had a slight tear in my eye, it was quite emotional.”
The Grafton Centre will continue to open two days a week for members and is hoping to introduce groups and classes again, with social distancing measures in place, from Monday, August 3, when the opening will also be extended to a Tuesday.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Grafton Centre, visit their website at www.graftoncentrehyde.com or give them a call on 0161 368 4110. They are also on Facebook, just search ‘Grafton Centre Hyde’ or call into the centre on Grafton Street, Hyde, SK14 2AX.
*All images by kind permission of Nigel Wood and the Tameside Reporter