A VALUABLE community hub is back in business thanks to a cash windfall.
Castle Morpeth Disability Association (CMDA) was forced to close its Stobhill centre last March when funding dried up.
But now the Shields Road facility is enjoying a new lease of life after securing £34,284 from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
The funding is used to deliver a One Stop Shop information centre, with staff offering advice and guidance, training and activities for the local community.
And the charity has placed a particular focus on helping unemployed people find work, providing access to computers for job searches, professional CV writing support and role plays for interviews.
CMDA Funding and Operations Manager Sara Parker said: “We had offices in Stobhill, but the funding ran out and they were closed down to the public last year.
“We have now got funding to open them up again and assist people.
“We have recruited people to help with CVs and job search and the aim is to get people into work.
“We had volunteers who came in to help people with their CVs, but with this money we have been able to pay a member of staff to take phone calls and we have been able to employ a professional consultant who helps to set the CVs out in a professional manner so they look more attractive to potential employers.
“We then help people send them off, or upload them to the Internet.”
The idea to offer people interview practice came from Ms Parker herself after she came across a need for the service while recruiting staff for a gardening and handyman service.
“There were a number of people who came for a job who didn’t seem to know how to conduct themselves in the interview and when I gave them feedback they said they didn’t know how to go on. They said they had been to interviews, but just weren’t getting any further,” she said.
“I thought about offering role play sessions that could help people to get more confidence and build up self-esteem for an interview and they would be prepared for what questions might come up.”
In addition to structured sessions, the centre also offers an informal drop-in to give access to computers.
“A lot of people use it as a drop-in centre,” said Ms Parker.
“We started providing computer training for beginners, but we get a lot of people who just come in to use Facebook or search the Internet because they haven’t got computers in their own homes.
“The older generation want to learn how to use a computer and we have a volunteer who does one-to-one training, but they are just one-hour sessions a week and a lot of people come back to practice themselves.”
Other services provided by the organisation include craft and horticultural activities, environmental projects and a volunteer network, as well as access to NVQ Level 2 training.
For more information about its work call 01670 504488.