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Shawn Mullins

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Phoenix Centre is at the heart of the community

Pictured are Councillor Richard Gold and Cindy Willcock (centre right) with Lubana Azam (left) and Shaheen Khan from the Inspiring Women group who use the centre

A vital community centre in its neighbourhood is expanding its services to help with the cost of living with the support of a grant from Bury Council.

The Phoenix Centre, based in St Mary’s Park in Prestwich, is a vital hub for the local community and used by more than 2000 people every month.

It hosts a variety of groups and sessions throughout the week from crafting to dance to after school cubs.

During holidays its club has around 200 members and the after-school club has doubled the numbers it caters for since before the Covid pandemic.

Up to now support for cost of living has been through informal conversations during sessions or when someone has brought in a bill or needs help using a computer or going online.

The group successfully applied for a grant of £2000 from the Community Cost of Living Fund from the council and managed through Bury Voluntary, Community, Faith Alliance (Bury VCFA).

The money will be used to put on more structured sessions such as making the most out of budgets, cooking healthy meals on a budget particularly for teenagers and boys, teaching sewing, and improving people’s digital skills.

Councillor Richard Gold, Cabinet Member for Finance and Communities said: “The Phoenix Centre really is at the heart of the community, and it was a pleasure to visit and see the good work being done.

“Groups such as the Phoenix Centre are at the sharp end of providing support during the cost of living crisis to our residents.

“As part of our Anti-Poverty Strategy we have chosen to use money from the government’s Household Support Fund to set up the Community Fund to help our voluntary and community sector with grants.

“With the help of our partners, such as Bury and Bolton Citizens Advice, we can help them to help our residents.”

Cindy Willcock is the manager of the centre and is passionate about the community. She said: “After Covid a lot of people found they had nowhere to go. We found that some people started coming along just out of interest and others came specifically for some of our sessions.

“We now have a centre which is used all the time.

“We have informal conversations during sessions and at coffee mornings about the cost of living. People raise specific issues they are having.

“The grant means that we will be able to put on more formal sessions. For example, sewing is something the kids enjoy but it is a life skill. Those coming to the after-school clubs want learn how to repair items and the kids enjoy the physical activity.”

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