Dean John is the patron of our partner charity and is pictured meeting staff and volunteers prior the the 2nd lockdown.
“This is a happy place, it’s like walking in to a great warm hug,” says Jennyruth Workshops’ Chief Officer Nicky Newell.
She added: “We are here to to promote meaningful work for adults who have learning disabilities. It’s a productive workplace with educational aspects – a place where everyone can be themselves – where people can see past the disability, to the person.”
It’s an ethos that saw founders Barrie and Sue Evason awarded MBE’s for their commitment to adults with learning difficulties. Their son Jonathan had Down’s Syndrome and they adopted four more youngsters with the same disability. Jennyruth itself was named after their baby girl, who tragically died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
The Evason’s legacy is a vibrant community of some 28 people aged between 19 and 70 – working alongside staff and volunteers to make gorgeous hand made wooden products and bespoke items.
Each is given a task to suit their ability and the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the business from production to on-line sales. The ‘workers’ come from as far afield as Leeds and Northallerton – though for the moment, due to COVID-19, it’s only to collect their packs and return their products to and from a drop-box outside.
The workshops still have their on-line shop www.jennyruth.co.uk/shop and are encouraging people to buy through that. There’s a click and collect service where you can order online and pick up your purchase from the drop box at the front of the building.
“It’s very odd not having the workers here, so we love it when they come to visit to pick up their packs to work on at home – it makes a difference for them as well as us,” explained Jennruth’s Anna Smith. “Parents and carers have been brilliant keeping a routine going and we are doing all sorts of activities via Zoom and through the Workers Zone on the website.”
Plans have been submitted to Harrogate Borough Council to extend the workshops and the existing building is being altered to accommodate COVID safe bubbles – but a larger premises is the only way that all the workers can return.
The project will cost an estimated £100,000 and the charity has already seen losses of some £30,000 due to the pandemic, with fundraising events cancelled and sales hit because they’ve been unable to have their usual stalls. You can also donate via the website.