Stepping down after an incredible 30 years of dedicated voluntary service at Chichester-based charity The Point, a day centre for disabled adults, retiring chairman Andy Heath admits the centre will remain close to his heart.
“Our son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy aged one, which was quite a reality check. By the time he was two we were thinking about the future; how we could do the best for Daniel later in his life,” he told me.
Sorting out Daniel’s educational needs as far as they could, Andy and his wife Alyson began searching for facilities that might be available for him as a young adult.
“There were virtually none. The only one that came even close was the West Sussex Spastics’ Group in Chichester [now The Point]. It was not a perfect solution, but was on the right lines. Alyson joined the committee and became chairman for some years and I took over from her 30 years ago. Under the leadership of a new manager who arrived soon after me, I have watched the centre grow into the vibrant, active and appropriate place it is today.”
Telling me how Daniel’s real need, in common with many of his peers, was to be enabled to share the experiences his able-bodied friends enjoyed, Andy is proud of how well The Point achieves this for its members, providing activities such as theatre visits, bowling, skating and shopping.
“It has always given me great pleasure to meet the members at the centre and hear first-hand about the experiences they have had.
“The staff are totally dedicated to their work and the trustee body is made up of people who care enough to try to make a difference. To work with people who share this commitment has been a joy.”
One of few day centres for younger disabled adults in West Sussex, The Point is a vital resource. Filled with laughter and energy, members depend on it for socialisation, activities and trips.
“But the time seems right for me to stand down as chairman as there is a new manager at the centre and I am a new grandfather. In my retirement, I want to be able to give my grandson more time as he grows up and also to spend time on my new hobby, woodturning,” said Andy.
“Daniel is well settled in a bungalow in Worthing, sharing with three others, and enjoys a thoroughly fulfilling life with extremely good care being provided. But I will always be grateful to The Point and I am sure that I will be popping in to visit from time to time.
“Thirty years is a long time, but it has been incredibly worthwhile.”
Call 01243 775330 or visit www.scope-west-sussex.org.uk