East Kent Mencap has been awarded £150,000 towards restoring their building in Meeting Street, Ramsgate.
East Kent Mencap bought the Foresters Hall site in January and have big plans to restore it and create a high quality environment combining heritage features with fully accessible facilities for people with a learning disability and the wider community.
The total cost of the project will be more than £1million and the donation from The Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust is an important boost, allowing some crucial work on the listed building to be carried out.
East Kent Mencap’s long-term member David Benson, who has a learning disability and attends the Thanet Day Resources, was a crucial part of the presentation team that secured this funding.
David (pictured) writes: “East Kent Mencap were invited by the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust to meet their Board of Trustees and give a presentation with a view to making a donation to Foresters Hall.
“Jason Gerlack (East Kent Mencap’s CEO) asked me if I would be interested in being part of the team which made the presentation. I have been involved with presentations and events with the fundraising team for over three years and really enjoy it. Jason explained that I would have to spend a whole day travelling to London and attending a meeting at a London Hotel. I said yes, of course, I would help.
“I met Jason and Jane (East Kent Mencap’s fundraising manager) the week before the meeting, to write my presentation. We talked about what volunteering I do, (fundraising events, mailings and presentations), what I enjoy doing (sport and social clubs), and how I feel about East Kent Mencap (it is like a family to me). We agreed that I would introduce us, give my part of the presentation about me, thank them at the end of the presentation and ask if they had any questions.
“On the day of the presentation, Jason picked me up and we drove to the station to catch the train to London. On the way Jane joined us. When we arrived at St Pancras, Jason, Jane and I caught the tube to Bond Street. Then we walked a short way to the Hotel where the meeting was being held. It was a very smart hotel, and we were greeted when we walked in and offered refreshments. After a few minutes the Chief Executive, Jacqueline, invited us into the meeting room and we met the Trustees.
“We gave our presentation and the Trustees were very friendly and interested. They asked me some questions about what I do at East Kent Mencap.
“Then we went back to St Pancras and had a sandwich and coffee and caught the train home.
“The next day Jason had a phone call from Jacqueline who told him the Trustees wanted to award us £150,000! I had to keep it a secret until they made a public announcement.
“Two weeks later, I was invited to Foresters and Jason came into the office and surprised me with a card, letter and gift from the Trustees of East Kent Mencap to say thank you for being amazing and giving the presentation. The gift was a stationery set with pens, pads, highlighters and post its. I felt very overwhelmed but happy.”
Foresters Hall plans
The charity bought the listed building from Thanet council after it was put on the authority’s asset disposal list.
Foresters Hall, which includes a listed building from 1811, as well as other properties, means the charity has the much needed space to expand its services for people with a learning disability and their families.
They hope to get the community involved with the possibility of venue and meeting room hire and plans for a Changing Places toilet to make the site all inclusive.
Housing for independent living could also be introduced using the same model as the six flats at east Kent Mencap’s other base in Northdown Road, Cliftonville.
East Kent Mencap works with around 130 people and at the time of the purchase said the Margate site was “full to bursting.” Ramsgate offered the opportunity to expand.