Mayor Ben Houchen has visited a Tees Valley community centre and trust which are not only helping to improve the quality of life for residents, but also working to establish and support community businesses.
The Annexe, in the Dyke House area of Hartlepool, was formed nearly 30 years ago, and is run by The Wharton Trust. The trust is focused on reducing the effects of poverty and worklessness on local people, with the centre running a series of clubs, services and classes to support access to employment and healthier lifestyles.
Hundreds of people benefit from the work of the Annexe and trust, which has four trustees, eight employees and practical backing from dozens of service users and residents. Its community organisers catalyse social action in the area to deepen local engagement and drive change.
On top of this work, the trust has helped set up three community businesses as part of the Power to Change charitable trust’s Empowering Places programme, with more in the pipeline. These businesses are locally rooted, trading for the good of the community and accountable to local people.
During the meeting, The Annexe’s manager Sacha Bedding outlined the trust and Annexe’s work and ambitions, plus their desire to drive further local wealth building, making sure public money is kept in the area and procurement is local.
Mayor Houchen said: “The Wharton Trust undoubtedly does great things at the Annexe for the people living in the Dyke House area and beyond. Its dedicated workers are improving the day-to-day lives of everyone living here.
“It goes much, much further than simply providing support services, though, to subjects close to my heart. What we’re seeing here is grassroots change in communities, empowering people to take charge of their own destinies, creating entrepreneurs and SMEs in an area that will benefit from them the most.
“Today’s visit has been hugely rewarding and I look forward to working with the Wharton Trust and Annexe in the future.”
Sacha said: “The work we do is incredibly important in this area and we’re proud and delighted to have such positive engagement with people working together to help each other
“We don’t want to simply be a sticking plaster for bigger problems, our aim is to use social action to build business, generate wealth and transform the communities in which we live. It was great to meet the Mayor and see how we could achieve this.”