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Swinnow: Lifeline centre is ‘part of the family’

By Michelle Corns

Swinnow Community Centre is a highly active community hub, situated in the heart of Swinnow, on Swinnow Lane. 

Established in 1989,  the building is set in a large, landscaped garden – complete with a covered fish-pond.

The interior comprises of a cheerful reception area with comfortable chairs and a large table for meetings or crafts and a spacious hall, which is perfect for youth groups, the line dancing and drama rehearsals.

Three years ago, Leeds City Council gave the centre a much needed face-lift and supplied new fixtures, fittings, and decor. 

The centre hosts a wide range of activities and groups, such as The Invisible Pain Theatre Company (IPTC), Prince’s Trust, line-dancing, Irish dancing, youth groups and a food bank.

Lots going on at the centre. Photo: Michelle Corns

The centre caters for all ages too. Little ones aged up to five can attend the Dinky group, and there is karate for kids five and upwards, two youth groups for ages eight-16 and 11-15 and the Prince’s Trust prepares 16-25 year olds for employment. IPTC provide a children and adults’ session. There are also advice sessions – including debt and money advice with Money Buddies.

During the pandemic, the centre remained a vital lifeline in the community, providing a whopping 3,500 meals a week and food parcels for families and the elderly. 

This was possible with the help of donations and a resolute team of 26 volunteers. They also set up a food bank and helped 27 families who had escaped violence during that period to set up home. 

Additionally, they gave out 150 hampers for families and the elderly. They also provided activity boxes with the help of Seagulls and treats, for local children. Volunteers visited the elderly, making sure they were ok.

It may surprise you to learn that this lively centre is run entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers. This includes centre manager Yvonne Allman, who has been a volunteer since 2016 and has been in her current role for the last five years. 

“No-one is salaried,” says Yvonne. “All staff – gardeners, cleaners, cooks and myself, are volunteers. 

“We are under Pudsey ward, but Swinnow is a deprived area. We run a food bank and we do get walk-ins straight off the street. Park Spring school referrals, housing office referrals, even the police have referred people. We’ll signpost people who have moved into a new place and have no furniture or we’ll put out an appeal, we’ll help anybody.

“I find that if they can come here in summer they can sit in the garden and have a natter, anyone who comes here is offered a drink. They end up part of the family, we have been known to go out in the community and shop for people, raise issues with other services because someone is having trouble… this is what community is – looking after your neighbours, the kid down the street who is being bullied.” 

The centre is short on volunteers since the pandemic and would like to appeal for helpers for their massive Jubilee Event on 4 June.

“We need people to help on the day, make and serve food, bunting, flags etc. We also want to appeal to local businesses – even if it’s just crisps for the kids,” Yvonne added.

If you would like to volunteer or find out what is on offer, search ‘Swinnow Community Centre’ on Facebook or e-mail: swinnowcommunitycentre@hotmail.com.

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