A FLAGSHIP centre designed to be used by the community for the community was officially opened in Forfar on Friday.
The one-time printers’ premises, call centre and recruitment office has been transformed into a multi-purpose facility which will provide a valuable asset for volunteer groups in the Forfar and Kirriemuir areas.
Prior to the official opening by Margaret Burgess, MSP Minister for Housing and Welfare, the Dispatch and Herald was given an exclusive insight into the hopes and aspirations the new centre has for Voluntary Action Angus, which has invested heavily in the project.
Chief executive officer Gary Malone could not contain his enthusiasm for the new premises, which have toilet facilities, kitchen facilities, a reception area, a dedicated area for VAA staff and a separate bank of ‘hot desking’ computer equipment which is available for local organisations or individuals in need of computer access or e-mail access.
There is a flexible conference room which can be used as a crèche, and another area which will be set aside for an inspirational Praxis Centre - a tried and tested project which currently operates in VAA’s Arbroath centre and which is reaping benefits for those seeking employment.
The VAA was formed with the merger last August of Volunteer Centre Angus and the Angus Association of Voluntary Organisations.
Gary explained the new Forfar centre is set up to provide valuable facilities for volunteer groups throughout the area.
The kitchen area will be available for classes on life skills to help young people learn about cooking, and the Praxis centre will offer local residents the opportunity to develop life skills, including reading and writing, which will help set them on their career path. All the facilities are free of charge.
Gary said: “We have run a successful Praxis centre in Arbroath for the last two years. It is all about life skills and tackling inequalities people may have experienced. It is transformational in terms of people’s learning. It is the most powerful thing you will ever experience as a worker, it transforms people’s lives and gives them confidence. It’s not just all about education, it’s about cultural change.”
Gary explained that, through their research, the VAA identified a need for support for the voluntary sector in the Forfar area, whilst the Arbroath centre will now deal with the coastal volunteering opportunities.
He said: “This is the place that offers everybody everything. What will happen here will depend on what the needs of the local people are. We have anticipated that people will be looking for training, but our experience is that things develop by having a good relationship with the public; if you respond to their needs you are always going to be on to a winner. This is a place for the people.”
Staff have access to 612 charities in Angus with some 8,000 volunteers and take a holistic approach when dealing with individual requests. They can be contacted on (01307) 466113.