Veterans’ Association centre officially opens in Birchington

Veteran Dave Murray cuts the ribbon alongside chairman John Langley

A dedicated veterans’ centre has been officially opened in Birchington today (November 14).

The former GP surgery building in Surrey Gardens has undergone a complete renovation to become a base for the Veterans’ Association.

At the official opening, attended by guests including veterans and Ramsgate mayor Pat Moore, the aims of the centre were explained by association chairman John Langley.

He said: “I moved to Birchington 35 years ago, grew up here and this was my doctor’s surgery. It is really nice to be opening the hub in my local village.”

Mr Langley, who said he has spent time volunteering with those who are homeless and working with Blesma – The Limbless Veterans charity – added: “The idea of the hub is to bring the veterans’ community, and the normal community, together.

“Every Tuesday, between 10am and midday, isolated or lonely veterans can come to the coffee morning and it is free to sign up for membership (if you are a veteran). Every veteran can have a free tea or coffee when they come in, we are hoping to have guest speakers and veterans can get together and have a chat.”

The base will offer support including help with housing, counselling either one-to-one or in groups, help to get back into employment including in-house training in areas such as health and safety, CSCS and first aid.

Mr Langley said: “We are working with a number of building companies in Thanet already who are happy to employ veterans who are out of work.”

Veterans’ Association fundraising manager Kye Charlesworth said the aim is to make sure help is offered across a wide range of areas.

He added: “In house we can train for CSCS cards and get people back into work, help with housing, offer counselling particularly as PTSD is a big problem.”

The centre will also make arrangements if veterans need services that cannot be provided inhouse.

The surgery conversion took around two years and has been funded through donations. The centre had a soft opening last month and already has 38 members.

The official ribbon cutting was performed by the centre’s first member Dave Murray, from Ramsgate, who joined the Royal Engineers as a 17-year-old. He has given 28 years in the Territorial Army.

He said: “This is the ideal thing for people locally where they can meet with like-minded folk. It will help people who maybe lose a partner and feel isolated but will be able to just drop in here and feel relaxed.”

Other guests included veteran Kevin Hobbs, who runs The Ramsgate Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club, and Richard Morgan who manages the veterans’ hub run at Ramsgate Royal British Legion club.

Kevin, who  has 28 years of service as an Army musician with the Band of the Irish Guards and previous to that the Band of the Royal Engineers, said: “’I am very pleased to see the formation of this new charity, the Veteran’s Association. Everything that has been asked of them to get them onboard with all appropriate agencies necessary to work with Veterans Welfare is being achieved and signs of very positive beginnings and I wish them every success.”

Future plans for the Veterans’ Association include buying a minibus so transport to the centre, as well as hospital or other appointments, can be offered and, in the longer term, providing shared properties.

Mr Langley thanked the community, volunteers and fundraisers, reception staff Helen and Angie – both veterans – Kevin Hobbs and Richard Morgan and many others.

The Veterans’ Association hub is at 2, Surrey Gardens, Birchington.

Find the association online by clicking here

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