Fundraising appeal to save Cantelupe Centre from closure gains momentum

HIVE OF ACTIVITY -- the Cantelupe Centre on Market Place, Ilkeston.
HIVE OF ACTIVITY -- the Cantelupe Centre on Market Place, Ilkeston.

From the outside, it looks a most undistinguished, insignificant building, despite holding a prime position in the town centre, by Market Place.

But on the inside, it is one of Ilkeston’s busiest hives of activity. An invaluable hub of community togetherness and charity cheer for the young, elderly and vulnerable.

It is, of course the Cantelupe Centre. Almost taken for granted as an asset that is going to be there forever more. But an asset that is now threatened with closure and badly in need of your help.

We all need a roof over our heads. The trouble with the Cantelupe is that its roof is on its last legs, and if it isn’t replaced soon, the centre will have to close. Cue an appeal, launched in the summer and now gathering momentum, to raise £60,000 to save the day.

“We have started the appeal before the roof falls in!” admits trustee Helen Crisp, who runs the Cantelupe Kids Club, one of the many groups based at the centre.

“Ultimately, the centre won’t survive unless we get this money. And it would be devastating if it had to close because so many groups use it.

“The roof is not dangerous, but it is bad. It’s like a quagmire of moss, water and plants up there. If it got damaged, we’d be in trouble.

“It has been patched up several times over the years, but we’ve been lucky in recent winters with the weather in that we’ve not had any heavy snow, gales or bad frosts.”

As a registered charity governed by a board of trustees connected to St Mary’s Church, the centre receives no external funding and relies solely on income generated from fees and charges

However, just three months into the appeal and the signs are encouraging. The response from Ilkeston’s townsfolk has been excellent. A couple of generous, anonymous donations got things off to a flying start and the total is already nudging £20,000. After Christmas, Helen will be contacting local companies asking for their help, as well as investigating the possibility of applying for grants.

She, and centre administrator James New, would also welcome fresh fundraising ideas, as well as donations. “It’s not easy because you find yourself asking the same people all the time,” says tireless Helen, 62.

Novel ideas so far have included a teddy-bear zip-wire from the top of the church tower, which raised more than £1,000, and a ‘How Well Do You Know Your Ilkeston?’ photographic quiz, entry sheets for which are on sale at the centre now.

Heroes of the appeal so far range from an intrepid elderly lady, Janet Reeve, to daring ten-year-old schoolgirl Aaliyah Hemming. Church stalwart Janet raised £775 from a sponsored swim, covering 40 lengths of her local pool in under an hour, while Lili plans to climb one of the peaks in the Lake District with her family in another sponsored venture.

A donation of £250 has been handed over by the Ilkeston Lions Club, while local councillors have supported the appeal too. More money is to be raised from a stall Cantelupe plan to man at Ilkeston’s Christmas lights switch-on on Friday, November 25.

Helen has set a time-frame of two years to hit the £60,000 target. If the current level of generosity continues, the appeal could well go through the roof!

Girl’s passion for centre sparked Nationwide raffle

When a little girl popped into the Ilkeston branch of Nationwide Building Society on Bath Street with her mum, customer relations assistant Helen Brice was so charmed by her affection for the Cantelupe Centre that she dived into a fundraising drive of her own.

“She was so passionate about the fact that she went to one of the kids’ clubs at Cantelupe, and that it might have to close,” says Helen. “It really struck a chord with me.”

Now Helen has launched a grand raffle at the branch to raise money for the roof appeal, and has been overwhelmed by the support of local businesses, who have donated prizes, which include hampers, one for adults and one for children. Tickets, priced just £1 per strip, are on sale at the branch, where Helen is planning to make the draw towards the end of November. She has also applied for a grant of up to £5,000 for the appeal from the Nationwide’s special community fund.

“This is all about community and helping Cantelupe, with the chance to win some fantastic prizes at the same time,” adds Helen.

Businesses backing the raffle include: Stacey’s Bakery, Scala cinema, Boots, Rymans, Molly Moos (Marie Strickland on Facebook), The Observatory pub, Memorable Events, Pick N Mix, Harper And Finch, Game, Discount Party Outlet, Graham’s Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting, CB Plumbing and Heating and Spuds and Lego.

From tots and toddlers to youth clubs and yoga classes

From tots and toddlers to youth clubs and yoga classes. The Cantelupe Centre is the venue for a wide and diverse range of groups and activities.

The beating heart of the centre is Cantelupe Kids Club for four-to-14-year-olds, which embraces a breakfast club, an after-school club and a holiday club. There’s also a pre-school group for two-to-five-year-olds, a tiny tots social group for parents/carers and their children, Forever Friends, a group for young adults with special needs, the Companion Club, an alcohol-abuse support group, a sexual health clinic, a coffee bar, a luncheon club and groups for the elderly, the unemployed and people trying to give up smoking.

On top of all this, the Cantelupe can be hired for functions, events, and meetings.