I'm trying to work out whether 2020 has gone by in a blur, or whether in fact Covid-19 has made the year drag at a snail's pace, one thing is for certain, we will all be glad when it's over. We end the year healthy at least, and grateful that YMCA Reading has survived the financial calamities that the pandemic has wrought.
We pause to consider Staff and Board Members, Residents and friends who have lost loved ones during the year. Many of you have been in our thoughts and prayers throughout the year, and will continue to be so in the hopes that we do not have more losses in the winter.
We are grateful to all of the many donors that have helped us to keep our services afloat this year, particularly BCF (Berkshire Community Foundation) and SEGRO who have generously given to keep The Parkside Cafe Open by funding a training project for our residents. More about this in the new year. BCF have also continued to contribute to our Mental Health Worker who provides on-site counselling to our Residents.
Our big news of the year was the start and completion of the refurbishment of the YMCA Reading Sport Centre. All of us were thrilled when the builders finally handed over the keys and left us with a beautiful fit for purpose facility that we will be proud to use for many years to come. However Covid-19 curtailed our celebrations and meant that a traditional opening (and our AGM) were not able to take place. We have also not been able to open our doors yet to our many old friends and community groups that use the facility for sport training, dance, NCT classes, social activities and many more. We have been grateful to have additional socially distant meeting space for our own purposes.
First Reading YMCA Sea Scouts, Cubs, did come back to us for some welcome face-to-face meetings just before Lockdown II struck, and the doors were closed again.
We have been very fortunate to work in partnership with Cranbury College, now part of the Maiden Erleigh Trust, who were in desperate need for spare teaching space to meet the needs of a social distanced environment. They will be using the facility in term time for the duration of this academic year. This has been a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The Padworth Activity Centre benefitted during the covid closures with a complete redecoration, a new pizza oven, and new bunk beds fit in the dormitories. It is now already for when groups can have woodland and camping activities once again.
Parkside Pre-School has been open all of this term, albeit for transitional children in the mornings and two year olds in the afternoons. We look forward to expanding the January in-take. We look even more forward to the day when we can eliminate 'bubbles' and see more of the Pre-School and hear their happy chatter. Covid has put an end to Care Centre visits, which were such a joyous event for young and old alike.
Of course as ever, the welfare of our young residents is paramount. YMCA Reading Residents did an absolutely sterling job of adhering to lockdown rules during both events. They are to be commended for that. It has not been easy providing socially distant support and activities for them, and we know how hard it has been getting through this year when you haven't got the challenge of being homeless, or having troubled family situations.
Christmas is destined to be a little different this year. Our annual meal will need to be held as a 'takeaway' event, which certainly doesn't feel like a very festive proposal. We will however do our best to make sure that the day is special for any of the young people that have nowhere else to go on Christmas.
A final note of thanks to all YMCA Staff, Board Members and Volunteers (Ray and Bill particularly who have ploughed on despite restrictions) who have had to work on through very trying circumstances this year.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and wishing you all good health going forward.