1997 - BEGINNINGS
We began as Thursday gateway Club, initially as part of the Youth Service and then under the umbrella of Essex County Council. A group of people - many of them still involved - became voluntary Trustees and we became an independent charity on 1st June 1997. We are registered with he Charity Commission and our Charity Number is 1063731.
Over the following years our Thursday Club grew, moved to Friday evening, and continued to grow. We started a new Club on Tuesday evenings and a local bar heard about us and offered their venue once a week - Gateway at Straws was born and was very popular until, unfortunately, Straws closed. We were able to move to a local pub, first on a Wednesday evening and then on a Monday evening. We also started a monthly Saturday Music Club. And we continued to grow.
We offered the Gateway Award Scheme - like the Duke of Edinburgh Award but tailored to the needs of people with Learning Disabilities. Many of our members enjoyed the scheme and proudly achieved Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.
Our Advocacy and Support Service started some ten years ago with one part-time member of staff. Now we have three qualified Advocates and demand for the service just keeps growing.
2020 - THE COVID PANDEMIC
By February 2020 we were providing four Social Clubs each week, a monthly Music Club and a weekly Ukulele Club, our Advocacy and Support Service had two members of staff, we were organising holidays and outings, and engaging with around 250 people with Learning Disabilities each week, plus their families and carers. Our Friday evening social Club was the largest of its kind, regularly attended by over 170 adults with Learning Disabilities.
Then Covid struck, the Government imposed a lockdown and all of our Clubs and activities stopped - except our Advocacy and Support Service, which was more in demand than ever. During lockdown we provided information about Covid-19 and Government restrictions in formats people with Learning Disabilities could understand, we delivered essential goods (including food and medication), we registered people on the Government support scheme, we provided emotional support, we contacted people daily (sometimes multiple times a day) to ensure they were not going out. We increased our presence on Facebook. We created recipe videos and art completion videos. We posted art materials to everyone who wanted them, and ran art competitions weekly, with prizes. We posted Covid information, games and things to do. We discovered Zoom and held quizzes and get togethers - we even taught people to play the ukulele on Zoom! We were BUSY. As restrictions were eased we began Support Groups to reduce social isolation and improve mental well-being. When restrictions were lifted we opened small-scale Clubs, when they were reimposed we closed them again. As the country now begins to learn to live with Covid-19 - so do we. Clubs are growing, activities are increasing.
We are very grateful to all of the individuals and organisations - small and large - who provided vital financial support during the pandemic - THANK YOU.
2022 - OUR SILVER JUBILEE
On 1st June 2022 the Charity will celebrate its Silver Jubilee - 25 Years of Colchester Gateway. We are planning lots of celebrations - and you are all invited! Check out our Silver Jubilee page for details.
We are very proud of how far we have come in 25 years and delighted that so may of the people who were brave enough to get the ball rolling in 1997 are still with us. Here's to the next 25 years.