Bernie tells of sadness at April Club closure

Bernie West (front right) with other club members and volunteers at the April Club in Haywards Heath. Picture: Steve Robards
Bernie West (front right) with other club members and volunteers at the April Club in Haywards Heath. Picture: Steve Robards

The closure of a community club has left a longstanding member devastated.

Bernie West, 69, of The Brow in Burgess Hill, had been a member of the April Club for 15 years.

Members at the April Club which closed on Wednesday (April 5). Picture: Steve Robards

Members at the April Club which closed on Wednesday (April 5). Picture: Steve Robards

It was held at The Yews Centre in Haywards Heath.

The club, which started 16 years ago, was run by volunteers and took place every Wednesday for the disabled and elderly.

It has closed its doors today (April 5).

Bernie, who lives in sheltered accomodation, is in a wheelchair and suffers from severe arthritis.

The club started 16 years ago and was held in The Yews Centre in Haywards Heath every Wednesday. Picture: Steve Robards

The club started 16 years ago and was held in The Yews Centre in Haywards Heath every Wednesday. Picture: Steve Robards

He said: “It gave us freedom and a place to go, to be with friends and allowed us to be who we were. I looked forward to it every week – I met some great friends.

“There was not enough money coming in to pay the money going out and transport was the biggest issue, plus we couldn’t get any young volunteers.”

Fatima Mirza, community liaison officer at Haywards Heath Town Council, paid the club a visit on March 22 and had a chat with Paul Voles, who ran the club.

She said: “Both volunteers supporting the club and its members had sadly declined. Over the years some members had passed away and Paul said there was only five remaining members who attended.

Bernie (left) is devastated about the club closure and is calling for help. Picture: Steve Robards

Bernie (left) is devastated about the club closure and is calling for help. Picture: Steve Robards

“I mentioned funding here at the council as well as Mid Sussex and West Sussex County Council. But Paul said that it wasn’t just a matter of funding, the club also needed a voluntary cook and younger volunteers who would be able to help members from the Bluebird community transport bus.

“Paul also said that he wasn’t in the best of health himself and felt unable to continue at the moment.”

Fatima added that Alyson Smith, manager of Mid Sussex Age UK, paid the club a visit on March 29 and said all of the members would be ‘most welcome’ to come to their Redwood Centre.

Paul Voles, 56, from Hassocks, had been running the club for more than a year, after the previous organiser had become unwell.

He said: “If my health gets better and my partner’s, I would love to run the club again.

“It’s not just the money, we need members, staff and a cook – its the whole picture. We are having a celebration meal today to thank all the volunteers for their help.

“I am saying it is closed until further notice as you never know we might be able to pick things up again.”

Can you help? Email middy.news@jpress.co.uk

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