A COMMUNITY hub which has supported thousands of people to beat their debts, find work, fight drug problems and make new friends has closed its doors after 26 years.
Doncaster West Development Trust (DWDT) has previously been supported by the National Lottery, the European Social Fund and charitable trusts but the cash has run out and the funding has dried up.
Marisa Graziano, who established DWDT at The Terrace in Conisbrough in 1993 described its closure as a sad day and said it would leave those who needed important advice without vital support.
Marisa, who served her last three years as chief executive unpaid, said: “Our services have provided a lifeline for so many people facing difficult situations, many of whom have gone on to overcome barriers and turn their lives round as a result.
“It’s gratifying to know that our staff and volunteers have made such a positive difference to people’s circumstances and wellbeing but it’s extremely sad that this will no longer be the case.
“It has never been easy to secure money to deliver these vital community services but for 26 years we have managed.
“However, funding priorities appear to have changed even though the fundamental problems of unemployment and poverty continue to blight many communities.
“There is now less money available for the third sector and many more groups competing for it.”
During DWDT’s long history, it bucked the trend of traditional advice provision by delivering services face-to-face on an outreach basis, taking support directly into communities and meeting clients in their own neighbourhoods.
It helped former addicts to return to the classroom and jobs market and tackled debt problems and budgeting skills through its Money Matters project, going on to win a regional award for social impact from Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber.
After moving its HQ into Mexborough Business Centre, DWDT opened the Hot Chocolate Lounge in Denaby as a social spot which also created jobs and volunteering roles.
The cafe closed recently but the trust hopes it can be reopened under new management.
Francesca Marks said Mexborough Business Centre was sorry to say goodbye to one of its longest-serving tenants who were "highly-valued" in the community
Ms Marks said: "The Business Centre made an offer to the charity to stay in their offices for 12 months, rent free, in the hope this might be a useful lifeline, but sadly the withdrawal of their funding meant they could no longer operate at all.”
She added: “Despite this loss, Mexborough Business Centre continues to go from strength to strength — at present we are 95 per cent full and have refurbished over 90 per cent of our office accommodation to cater for our tenants, which we are delighted to achieve in just thre years of ownership. This is an ongoing process, that we offer for any new tenants moving in.
“Mexborough Business Centre is passionate about re-generating the area and whilst we are sorry to witness the closure of DWDT, we have also witnessed an upturn in business for many local training organisations, which use our training room facilities, whose focus is very much on re-generation through education of people within our communities. Whilst one door closes, another opens.”
Residents in need of debt advice or other support are now being advised to contact the Doncaster or Mexborough branches of Citizens Advice.