Campaigners at Preston’s Space Centre today spoke of their joy that the centre’s future has been saved after a merger with a charitable organisation.
The move has ended a ‘year of uncertainty’ for Space after a funding shortfall of £800,000 was discovered 12 months ago.
Bosses at the Pedders Lane centre feared the closure would leave disabled people, their carers and families without a crucial leisure and learning resource and a huge fundraising drive was launched.
They owed nearly £500,000 to creditors and needed £300,000 for equipment for the new sensory room.
The Save our Space (SOS) campaign was launched but the target of £500,000 wasn’t reached in time.
But a charity called Creative Support, a charitable organisation supporting people with a learning disability and other needs, has now come on board to save the centre.
The two organisations merged yesterday.
Centre manager Alison Shorrocks said: “Creative Support will pay off Space’s immediate creditors. This will allow Space to use funds raised by SOS to go towards equipping the second amazing sensory room, Space 2. “But fund-raising continues as the target for the sensory room has not yet been met - we need to get that message across to everyone.
“This merger will ensure Space’s long-term future but Space will still be operating as a distinct local resource requiring on-going funding, and any funds raised in the future will be solely used for that purpose.”
The bosses at the centre are keen to stress that, although the future of the centre is safe, they still need to raise more cash for equipment.
Money raised through the SOS fund has also been earmarked for equipping the new sensory room.
Alison added: “There is still a funding gap of £250,000 for the new sensory room. Now that our future is assured, we can focus our efforts on filling this gap and completing our amazing second sensory room which we will call Space 2.
“The building work is complete but the new sensory room is a bare shell that needs fitting out. We need everything from LED lighting to a giant bubble tube.”
The last 12 months have been very difficult for the centre, not knowing exactly what their future would hold.
Alison said: “This crisis exploded on September 28 2012 - that day has etched on my brain. I remember every minute of it. We ran on adrenaline for three months not knowing if the centre would be closed. Over the next nine months we lived in hope that Creative Support would come in and save us, but not knowing for sure. It has been a very long year of uncertainty.
“Relief doesn’t even cover it, all we wanted was Space’s future to be secured.
“The support we have had has been immense.”
The Space Centre first opened in 1993. Bosses bought the building next door with grant funding as part of their plans to create better facilities. A room within the centre will be named the Thomas Cook room after the travel agent donated £44,500 towards it.
Fundraising co-ordinator Hilary Holden added: “The news is phenomenal, we are so grateful to creative support because now it means the centre which has been here for 20 years can carry on for the next 20 years.”
Martin Igoe MBE, chairman of the board of trustees of Creative Support, based in Manchester, said: “We look forward to supporting the Space Centre’s dedicated and passionate team to enable them to achieve their ambitious vision to create a state-of-the-art service for the benefit of people in Preston and the North West.”
Stuart Robinson, chairman of the Space board of trustees, added: “I am grateful to Creative Support, the SOS committee, volunteers and all the public who have helped us through this traumatic year. Now that the future of Space is safe, we can concentrate on raising the funds needed for Space 2.”
People from far and wide have given up their time to arrange charity events in aid of the Space Centre.
These have included public events such as Space Aid a two-in-one day of concerts, the successful Onesie Day which saw people don their pyjamas for the cause, a dinghy race for Space as part of the Riversway Festival and more.
And many people have completed individual charity missions for the centre, from bike rides to bake sales and quizzes to carol singing. Many of the events including the Space Ball and Onesie Day are already being planned for next year.
Alison said: “We take this opportunity to give profound thanks to everyone who has raised funds already and to those who are doing on going events, and we hope that your support will carry on in the future.”
Hilary Holden, fundraising co-ordinator at the Space Centre said: “The support from companies and the general public has been phenomenal - but we need this to carry on, the fundraising doesn’t stop here. We wish to acknowledge Wardens Builders of Kirkham and Lee Engineering of Lancaster and our other creditors who have been immensely patient and supportive of Space.
If you wish to make a donation to Space contact Hilary on 01772 769391; Email email@example.com. Or write to The Space Centre, 10 Pedders Lane, Ashton, Preston, PR2 2TH. Cheques should be made payable to the ‘SOS Fund’. To find out more visit: www.thespacecentre.org