AN autism support charity that has operated from Stannington for more than a decade is on the move.
The Toby Henderson Trust, which works with autistic children and their families, has been based at The Old Barn since the charity was established 11 years ago.
But in recent times the centre has started to show its age and has become less fit for purpose, and early last year volunteers warned that it may have to close due to rising heating oil bills.
Now the trust has been offered the use of a former caretaker’s bungalow in the grounds of Hareside Primary School in Cramlington.
And former Lynemouth smelter operator Rio Tinto has offered a £61,100 grant from its Legacy Fund to adapt the building.
The facility, which will be known as The Rio Tinto Centre, will include two playrooms, two observation points, a large group room, a family meeting area with a kitchen and resource centre, accessible toilets and storage areas.
Trust founder Lesley Henderson said: “We are incredibly grateful to Rio Tinto for the magnificent donation of £61,100.
“The firm’s commitment to improving the quality of people’s lives is hugely appreciated by us all at the trust and the donation will make such a difference.
“The work we do at The Toby Henderson Trust is nothing short of life-changing and this legacy will transform even more lives for families affected by autism in our area.”
Rio Tinto Regional Economic Development Assistant Joanne Hannay said: “The fund was set up to benefit the people of south east Northumberland and what better way to do so than to help sustain a charity that has done so much for so many and we are more than happy to help it continue its amazing work.”
Mrs Henderson set up the charity in 2001 after realising how little information and support was available when her son Toby was diagnosed with autism. She started to investigate the condition herself and made trips to the United States and London to further her research before setting up the support service in Northumberland.
It provides a range of help with child development and family training, offering specialist counselling, holiday and after-school clubs, art therapy, an outreach service and heavily subsidised short breaks to its own caravan in Cresswell.
The new premises will save money on running costs, which will enable the trust to help more families.
Hareside is also going to develop a garden next to the building, which the trust will be able to use, and the school is considering providing access to its own indoor and outdoor facilities after hours, as well as looking into ways of bringing its pupils together with some of the centre’s users.
The Toby Henderson Trust has also found support from the Newcastle Building Society (NBS) after staff at its Morpeth branch nominated the charity for an award from the society’s Community Fund at the Community Foundation.
The £200 grant will be used to buy new toys and resources for a playroom.
NBS Morpeth Branch Manager Katie Johnson said: “As a mutual organisation we’re keen to support the communities in which we work as much as we can and the wonderful work done by the Toby Henderson Trust makes it very worthy of our support.
“It is a fantastic locally-based charity that our branch staff and community are very supportive of and our donation is just a small token of our appreciation for what the charity does for local families.”
The Rio Tinto Legacy Fund is open to charities, voluntary groups and other worthy causes in south east Northumberland. For more information visit www.rtlynemouth.co.uk