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Black seniors in plea for funds

FUN :Regulars involved in a big dominoes game

A COMMUNITY centre that caters for Caribbean elders is facing financial difficultues due to local authority funding cuts.

The Pepper Pot Centre in west London provides support and social activities for senior citizens in the area.

Its members describe it as an important part of their lives. However, its existence is in jeopardy because Kensington and Chelsea Council has reduced its funding by £56,000.

The Ladbroke Grove based centre was founded in 1981 by Pansy Jeffery.
Jeffery, originally from Guyana, saw how isolated some of her peers who had emigrated from the Caribbean were, and wanted to create a place for those who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. In June 2006, the centre hosted the Queen.

Leonie Lewis, a member for over 10 years, said it was home away from home. “It’s a friendly place. Now we get older, we have more time. We don’t have to look after children or housework,” she told The Voice “I love coming here.”

Her friend Bridget Munro, who has also been coming to the centre for more than a decade, was more blunt.

“We need money, money, money,” she said.

With such a drastic drop in money, there have been significant changes which former company secretary, Bridget Davies described as crippling.

Davies was present when the centre began and also served as an assistant to Pansy Jeffery.

She said it broke her heart to see Pepper Pot at risk of being closed.

“It’s so sad. It was such a thriving club,” the 85-year-old said. “The spirit has gone out of it. Morale has been sapped; it was a vibrant place. We have had to curtail many of our activities. We simply can’t afford them.”

Davies said the centre has had to cancel a much needed bus service that helped disabled and isolated seniors who were unable to get in due to lack of funds to pay for a driver and the petrol.

The centre used to provide everything from day and cruise trips abroad to yoga, tai chi and keep fit classes. The services have been cut because they cannot pay instructors.

Staff members have either moved on or had their working week cut. Davies said: “We greatly rely on volunteers. There is no office administrator, and the centre’s director doesn’t even work full time.”

Ferdinand Maxwell spoke of his fondness for the place he has been coming to for three years.

“If this place didn’t exist, I’d be at home doing nothing,” said the 71 year-old former army corporal."

Fresh from a game of dominoes, another Pepper Pot Centre member, Gladston Bovell, said: “It’s a nice place to come. There are a lot of memories here. If Pepper Pot went, I would need to find an alternative, but that would be very hard because there is no other place like it. This place is like family, but bigger.”

A Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: “Like many services supported by the council, Pepper Pot has received a reduction in council funding in the light of the reduction of central government grants to local authorities.”

The council added it remains supportive of the community centre, saying it “has provided interim support helping transport people to the centre and delivering meals to some centre users when the Pepper Pot was unable to do so.”

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