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Woodbridge's New Horizons Club returns to seaside after being saved by community

Woodbridges New Horizons club, saved from closure, enjoying a day out at The Hut, Felixstowe. Trisha, Jayne, Jean, Jean and Flo.

Woodbridges New Horizons club, saved from closure, enjoying a day out at The Hut, Felixstowe. Trisha, Jayne, Jean, Jean and Flo.

A year made all the difference for members of a resurgent group for older people on their return to the Suffolk seaside.

Woodbridges New Horizons club enjoying a day out at The Hut, Felixstowe.Woodbridges New Horizons club enjoying a day out at The Hut, Felixstowe.

Last summer, a day trip to Felixstowe was tinged with sadness for Woodbridge’s New Horizons club, after Age UK Suffolk announced its closure due to funding losses.

Members and volunteers thought they would never return to the seafront as a group – until a committee of volunteers was formed to help resurrect the lunch and leisure club.

The committee included cooks, drivers and an art tutor, with support and advice from Claire Taylor-Crisp, field officer for Community Action Suffolk.

County councillor, Caroline Page donated £1,988 of her locality budget to help get things off the ground, while James Lightfoot, a Woodbridge solicitor, wrote the club’s constitution.

The club moved venue from Woodbridge Methodist Church to St Mary’s Church Hall, where volunteers could provide two-course lunches and activities like art, crafts, games and entertainment.

Age UK said it had been forced to close the club due to a number of reasons, including the changing needs of clients, increased staffing levels required to ensure quality standards were met, and the potential increase in rent and utilities.

Following the trip to Felixstowe, club manager, Brenda Jackson said: “Everyone had a wonderful time. It was lovely to see after how we felt last year, when it was all despair and people were in tears.

“Since being saved, we’ve gone from 14 to 30 members and kept all our original volunteers. It’s all thanks to their determination not to let the club go.

“The committee chaired by James Lightfoot, along with initial funding from Caroline Page, gave us the security to feel we could keep going.

“The funding we raised lasts until October – and hopefully it will continue, because we have been so successful and would like to recruit a couple more volunteers and volunteer drivers. We have a very nice venue and we’re hoping to add an hour to our afternoons and make use of an extra room.

“It shows there is huge demand for a service that allows older people to enjoy a day out at reasonable cost – to talk to other people, make friends and stay healthy.”

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