Whitchurch charity forced to close as pandemic takes its toll

A charity which has served the Whitchurch community for more than 25 years is set to close next week after becoming a victim of the pandemic.

Beechtree Community Centre
Beechtree Community Centre

Beechtree Centre for Health and Wellbeing is having to close down after 27 years.

The charity has faced unprecedented difficulties in attempting to raise funds following Covid lockdowns, having been unable to obtain grants from major donors, and is no longer financially sustainable.

Sheila Chase, the current chair of trustees, said new volunteers had come in as trustees a few months ago to try to save the charity but those efforts proved to be in vain.

"The situation we inherited was grave and we redoubled efforts to obtain funding," she said.

"But the huge increase in the number of organisations looking for funds has meant that the Beechtree has been unsuccessful.

"Additionally, many of the groups who booked the Beechtree pre-Covid and hired its meeting rooms have not been able to return following the lockdown, with a significant loss of income."

The Beechtree has helped the community by providing school holiday meals to underprivileged children, helping individual adults to return to work, as well as supporting youth activities, and hosting programmes for the NHS.

Mrs Chase added: "We have been managing on our cash reserves and a number of smaller donations from local people and organisations.

"But now we're about to face significant debts. Despite trustees donating their own money to the charity and putting in a considerable amount of our time, we have been unable to rescue the charity.

"We are all deeply upset by the situation and are navigating the difficult close down procedures. We wish to thank all those who have contributed to the centre."

The Beechtree is set to close its doors on June 30, although with the continued support of the SYA youth organisation and trustees, Thursday evening youth activities will be extended until Thursday, July 21.

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