More than 100 people celebrated the official opening today of an innovative new community centre which is breathing fresh life into one of South Wales most deprived areas.
The St Paul’s Centre in Aberavon, which was built in church grounds, boasts a cafe and lounge, conference facilities with super fast broadband, a hall, large meeting room plus offices and a digital suite.
Local Aberavon AM David Rees cut the ribbon to officially open the building after musical entertainment was provided by schoolchildren from the nearby Sandfields Primary School Choir and community choir Cor Serenata.
The attractive contemporary interior features stain glass windows from the former St Paul’s Church, which closed in 2013.
The centre is run by Community Development and Operations manager, Mr Roger Williams who said, “St Paul’s Centre will strive to be a centre of excellence for education training and skills. We are already working with the Welsh Government funded initiative Flying Start and currently work in partnership with organisations such as the Coastal Housing Group to deliver digital inclusion to all within the community. We recently hosted two days of digital training by Google Digital Garage and intend to give any individual or local businesses within our communities access to a wide variety of opportunities”
Canon Nigel Cahill, Rector of Aberavon who welcomed guests and thanked many for their support said, “We are hugely excited to have a building with these qualities that can reach into the community and help people in their everyday lives with things that really matter to them.
“We have discovered that there is a huge amount of debt in this area and already we have a three month waiting list to help people.
“At the heart of the church is a passion for people and I am fortunate to have staff here that also have a passion for people.”
Centre users range from community groups such as baby massage, mother and toddler, a dads group, ballet, a sewing group and air cadets to organisations such Keep Wales Tidy, Flying Start, local schools and social housing. A drop-in job club meets at the centre every Wednesday and the centre also provides a Christians Against Poverty debt service which offers a free award winning service to enable clients to become debt free.
Debt advice worker and job club co-ordinator Liz Blackham said, “We have a good take-up with the Job Club with around ten users every week and we offer a very personal service, helping with the writing of CV’s and offering support in job applications online job searches”
Aberavon AM, David Rees said, “I am delighted that the Welsh Government and Big Lottery have both supported this project to re-establish a vibrant community centre which will serve all age ranges within our community at St Paul’s. St Paul’s was the very first church I attended and has always been there for its local community. This fantastic centre will ensure its presence will remain in the heart of the community of Aberavon for many years to come.”
The centre is open Monday to Friday with occasional opening at the weekend.
Aberavon AM David Rees cutting the ribbon to open the centre with Canon Nigel Cahill
Inside the St Paul’s Centre