Leighton Buzzard Mencap is sending a special call out to former club members, as the charity hopes to create a timeline in honour of its 50th anniversary.
Next year (2019), the town’s branch will be marking its half-century milestone, and to celebrate this landmark, the team is asking current and former service users, parents, volunteers and carers to get in touch with their favourite memories and photographs.
The group started life in 1968 and provides support and opportunities to those with learning disabilities and their families, as well as welcoming sixth form volunteers to take part in the annual holiday club.
Vanessa Aquilina, administrator, said: “There’s got be a story as to how we got from there to here. We can give the years that different groups were started, but we thought it would be a nice idea to put a call out to people for any memories, anything ‘stand out’, and any photos.
“It will help raise awareness about the club and help us celebrate our 50th birthday next year.
“It will have changed so much, but it will have always been there for the people who have needed it and appreciated it.
“We are run by volunteers and there’s a general family feel - everyone always comes back for more!”
Leighton Buzzard Mencap was founded in 1968 by Rex and Anne Watson. Their daughter Sarah has Down Syndrome, but they found that there was no local support.
The branch is affiliated to Royal Mencap, but is dependent entirely on external contributions and as it reaches its 50th birthday, there are now four groups which people can become involved with: Opportunity Playgroup - for preschool children; High 5s youth club - for eight to 18 year olds; the Holiday Club - run during the summer; and Friends Within - for over 18s.
Vanessa said: “We aim to provide support and opportunities to those with learning disabilities and their families locally, and our vision is a world where people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to, and included.
“I first started as a Holiday Club volunteer at 16 or 17 and my life has changed quite a lot over the years, but I can’t imagine not being at the club!
“It’s just lovely to be a part of and to see the young people grow into themselves and achieve things they previously thought they couldn’t.
“At the Holiday Club party we also meet the families and parents in more detail. It’s a privilege to be part of.”
Vanessa has recently helped the charity to mark Learning Disability Week (June 18 - 24), giving people at High 5s club the opportunity to fill in a speech bubble and explain why they support the campaign.
The branch is also running a drop in centre on Monday, July 16 from 10am - 11.30am at the Leighton Buzzard Health Centre on Bassett Road.
Vanessa said: “We are organising a monthly drop in for anyone that might like to know a bit more about us and how we can help. It’s a chance for people to meet each other and come and get support and advice.
“It will be very informal, and you can have a cuppa and some cake!”
The drop in centre will be run every month.
If you would like to get in touch and send your memories and photographs to Leighton Buzzard Mencap, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org