Local children with disabilities to benefit from Co-op funding for Friends for Leisure

It was started in 1995 when it was revealed parents of disabled children found there weren't many accessible activities to do.

By Alex Greensmith

Posted: Tuesday, 07th February 2023 10:42 am

Sean, Maggie and Claire from Friends For Leisure. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)
Sean, Maggie and Claire from Friends For Leisure. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)
Local initiatives

A local charity which helps those who are disabled or living with a long-term health condition to socialise and have a better quality of life is to receive thousands of pounds of funding from the Co-op.

Friends for Leisure, founded in Macclesfield and later moving to Congleton, are one of fifteen good causes in the Macclesfield and Congleton area that the Co-op will raise money for this year.

It was started in 1995 following a survey when it was revealed parents of disabled children found there weren't many accessible activities to do. 

They serve those aged between five and 21.

Friends for Leisure have been helping disabled children and young people in Cheshire East enjoy friendship and leisure since 1995. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"We focus on the social side of the disabled children's lives," said Manager Gillian Jones. 

"So much is focused on their health that friends and enjoying their life is often forgotten about.

"The service teaches them new skills and also gets them into the community doing what everyone else does. 

"We're doing the ordinary every day activities everyone is doing, but making it safe for them. 

In 2008, the charity recieved funding to expand beyond Congleton and Macclesfield so they could cover all of Cheshire East. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"Whether it is going to the cinema, going bowling, going for a bite to eat. All promoting fun and friendship so they are better equipped to do things in the future without our support, giving them the comfort and confidence to do other things in everyday life." 

There would be no need for the service if society treated disabled people as equals, however, this is not the case so the Friends for Leisure is providing a vital community resource.

The service is mostly attended by children with autism, but children with any disability are welcome.

Also benefitting is the army of volunteers, who are often teens themselves that make friends with Friends for Leisure regulars as well as getting a boost to their CV.

A Friends for Leisure leaflet. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

Fundraising and Marketing Coordinator Claire Addis, who applied for Friends of Leisure to become a Co-op cause explained what the funding will pay for.

"We have what I call a jigsaw of funding", she said.

"We don't like to be too reliant on one particular source.

"We have a contract with the Council, but that doesn't cover everything and only up to the ages of 18. But we like to keep our activities accessible for a few more years so they can keep seeing their friends and so we can help more people.

A cast photo of their Christmas drama group last year. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"We regularly host fundraising events. And I go off to charitable trusts and foundations, such as Congleton's The Georgia Leigh Ogden foundation and pitch to them projects that they pledge to.

"With regards to the Co-op, the fundraising will be spent on our drama provision, which is one of many activities our children enjoy.

"Our drama group rehearse at The Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield. We pay for rent of the venue as well as a qualified drama teacher and volunteer costs.

"We were a Crewe local cause in the Co-op last year, and it was an incredible experience. So we were delighted to become a cause to benefit one of our projects in Macclesfield as well.

They were initially based in Macclesfield, before moving to Congleton, but they still serve both towns. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"The drama programme is incredibly popular and the children will be very grateful to keep doing it for another year."

Maggie Readman, who has been involved with Friends for Leisure since the beginning, had this to say about the drama programme.

"The drama exercises are largely trust-based games", she said.

"It is about working as a team, feeling confidence and trusting one another. You can be silly in a safe place, build character, and learn to support each other.

The Co-op funding will support their theatre programme, which lasts for three months. And then another programme starts, meaning there's four in a year. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"It is so important for our young people to feel comfortable, because a lot wouldn't cope in a mainstream setting.

"The drama group receives excellent feedback from parents.

"We have families who travel from Congleton who think it is worth travelling eight miles from Congleton to Macclesfield on a cold wet Monday night, because they get so much out of it.

The drama programme is 12 weeks long. So the Co-op funding, which could be between three and six thousand pounds, will cover all of that.

A read-through before the big show of 'Sleeping Beauty' at The Fallibroome Academy in Upton Priory. (Image - Friends for Leisure)

"The difference it can bring to a young person's life is amazing", added Claire.

"At the start people won't say anything, but by the end they are singing and dancing with ease.

"It helps them with self-awareness and learning what great things they are capable of.

"The drama service is just one of the many activities we offer at Friends for Leisure.

If you want to raise money for Friends for Leisure just by doing your regular shop, download the Co-op app and become a member. (Image - Friends for Leisure)

"We have a youth group, holiday activities, trampolining, drinks making, and more."

Other benefits the drama class brings includes keeping fit and respecting each other's space, as well as doing more than their parents think that they could do.

The Co-op funding will be presented to Friends for Leisure in November, and you can raise money for it now.

"We know from the feedback that we get from the young people and their families that we have a strong impact on their lives", concluded Maggie.

In the 2000s they moved to their Albert Chambers office on Congleton's Canal Street, with a gorgeous view of Congleton Town Hall. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"I can't think of anybody who hasn't benefited to some extent, short-term and long-term."

The Friends for Leisure staff are eternally grateful for Co-op members who select for the cash they raise to go to the charity.

"Thank you so much to the Co-op and their members for your support", concluded Claire.

"Having had children myself and thinking about what life would be like for them if they didn't have a close circle of friends and the fun things they get to do, it makes you realise how important it is the work that we do.

As well as getting you discounts in store, becoming a Co-op member can raise money for over 12 good causes which serve Macclesfield, Congleton, Bollington, Prestbury and further beyond. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"It may seem basic to go to the movies or put on a play, but these activities really help with their confidence and it is heart-breaking to think that if it wasn't there.

"Every child should have the opportunity to do whatever they want.

"Finally, I would like to mention that it has also been a delightful personal experience working with the Co-op [as well as a professional one].

"My father worked for the Co-op for 40 years so I was always learning about the ethical stuff they do. And it is nice to be involved with that now in my own special way.

If you buy an item with the Co-op's logo on and scan your Co-op card in-store, you can raise money for Macclesfield charities at no extra cost to you. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

"Every time I mention that the Co-op have agreed to raise money for us for another year as a local cause, his face lights up."

Simply become a Co-op member, do your regular shop and select Friends for Leisure on the Co-op app.

Co-op membership helps support your local community, with great rewards and deals for you too.

When you buy selected Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound spent goes to you and the Co-op gives the same to local communities.

Are you keen to access their services or volunteer? Give them a bell on the number above. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

It doesn't cost you a penny to raise money for local causes, just become a Co-op Member and shop as you please.

Just make sure you select Friends for Leisure on the Co-op app if you want your money to go to them!

Join the Co-op today online at this webpage or in-store.

Click on these links to find out more about the Local Community Fund.

Co-op membership costs just £1, and you can earn money off your shop, as well as choosing to give money back to local causes. You can even choose which cause you support. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Nub News)

As well as raising money by becoming a Co-op member at no extra cost to you, you can also make a one-time donation to Friends for Leisure on this link.

If you wish to volunteer at Friends for Leisure, please email [email protected].

Friends for Leisure's office is located on Albert Chambers, Canal St Ground Floor, Canal Street, Congleton, CW12 4AA.

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