By Jay Unger
An organisation that helps the elderly has raised £72,000 to buy a Leeds pub and convert it into a community centre.
Currently based in Holt Park, Older Peoples Action in the Locality (OPAL), aims to reduce isolation and loneliness for the over 60s within the LS16 postcode and surrounding areas.
The organisation, which currently rents premises, wants to provide a more permanent facility for its members and the wider community – transforming the Bedford arms pub, on Silk Mill drive, into a Leeds 16 Community Centre.
Project manager for the charity, Ailsa Rhodes, 40, from Rawdon, said: “It’s been a really steep learning curve. I’ve run OPAL for 10 years and would say I’m fairly confident in my role, but raising the money and engaging the community has been hard.
“I’m just nervous right now, until we have signed the lease and the solicitors have approved it all, I don’t really want to jinx it.”
The charity had initially ringfenced £30,000 as a windfall fund for any emergencies, however since deciding to relocate and ensure it had a place to operate, much of the money needed to buy the pub has been collected through donations, grants and fundraising.
Mrs Rhodes said: “One of our members recently passed away and his son came in and said the Bedford Arms was one of the few projects his dad had got excited about before he died. He said the collection at the funeral service would be donated to the charity.
“Another member saved up for four months to take part in our buy a brick scheme. That’s the joy of this job, you get to see the best in people.”
The charity has been going strong since 2002, and has more than 700 members who benefit from the services provided, such as practical help, social activities, and emotional support.
It hopes to move into the pub after renovations have been made, later this year.