The longest-serving member of staff at Preston’s Space Centre has said workers feel like they are “in limbo” as the future of the charity hangs in the balance.
The centre has been providing vital services for severely disabled people across Lancashire for almost 20 years.
But now it is in dire straits due to an £800,000 funding black hole and a desperate appeal has been made for fundraising help.
Margaret Stanley, a facilitator and office manager who has worked at the Space Centre since it opened in 1993, said the charity had been inundated with calls.
She said: “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing. We’ve had a lot of good wishes coming in and we have had quite a few small amounts of money, for which we are very grateful.
“People on PayPal have been giving us £10 and £25, but nothing substantial I am afraid, nothing that is going to save the day at the moment.
“Unfortunately we need big money.”
Detectives confirmed they were investigating claims of “financial irregularities” in relation to an ex-employee at the Pedders Lane site.
Bosses believed grant money was on its way to the centre, when in fact the cash had not been approved.
It has left the Ashton centre with a £350,000 debt for building work which is partially finished and £150,000 for design work already carried out.
Margaret said talks would be held this week between the centre’s manager Alison Shorrock and charitable trusts.
She said: “I believe we have a couple of ladies coming in this week from a couple of grant organisations who might be able to help us.
“There is nothing major to report but it is early days so we’ll just have to wait and see.
“I’ve been here for 19 years. I help with groups, facilitating hoisting, and domestic things.
“I think we’re all in limbo at the moment.”
In March 2011, bosses at the centre bought a building next door with grant funding as part of plans to create better facilities for its users.
A major building project has been underway since then to transform the premises.
The centre employed a grant funding manager in 2010 to apply for grants for the project. More than £750,000 was secured and £800,000 from the Heritage Lottery fund was also set aside.
But a further £800,000-plus, which trustees were assured was on its way, will never be received because the money was either never applied for or applications were rejected.
The problem, which means the charity could lose both the new and existing building, was only uncovered last month.
Anyone who wishes to donate to Save Our SPACE can contact community fund raiser Hilary Holden on 01772 760403.
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