A lady we support living with cerebral palsy has reflected on the near 50 years she has spent attending the Ambito Chester Skills Development Centre on Western Avenue in Blacon.
Elizabeth Evans, 65, started attending the service in August 1971 when she was just 16.
At the time it was a work centre where Elizabeth and the other attendees would make toys and caravan steps for local firms.
She had attended a special school about 13 miles from her home and had been concerned about missing her friends when she left.
To her relief, many of her friends joined the work centre at the same time.
In 1991, the service changed to become a skills development centre, where skills are taught to promote independent living, including cookery and housekeeping, and fun activities such as arts and crafts as well as helping them to access volunteering opportunities.
Elizabeth is a keen crafter and is encouraged by staff to pursue her passions for knitting and creating homemade birthday cards.
Elizabeth said: “I couldn’t go to mainstream school because they didn’t allow people with disabilities to attend back then, so I went to a special school, but it was quite far away from home.
“I was a bit worried about making new friends when I left, so as you can imagine, I was delighted when most of my friends turned up at the work centre too.
“It’s changed a lot in the last five decades. There’s been a lot of new rooms created, like the games room, and when I started all the customers were younger than the staff.
“Now the staff are all younger than the customers, which is lovely, because they have a lot of energy.
“The staff are wonderful. During the lockdown, we weren’t able to come in, which was a bit unnerving for us, but Gaynor was always at the end of the phone and able to talk to us. They’re a brilliant team.
“Ambito Chester has helped me a lot. I used to be very quiet and keep things in when they were bothering me, but I’ve learned to open up. The service has built my confidence, which is amazing.”
Gaynor Burton, service manager at Ambito Chester, said: “Elizabeth is always lovely, and we’re delighted she’s chosen to stay with Ambito Chester for such a long time.
“She’s a shining example of what someone can achieve with the help and support of a service like ours. We hope she keeps coming back for many years to come and we look forward to celebrating her birthday with her in December.”
Over the many years Elizabeth has attended the centre, it has undergone many changes.
Now, Ambito Chester offers a whole range of activities including cookery, IT sessions, arts and crafts, swimming, cycling, golf, outings, rambling, music groups, keep fit and more.
The service is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm for adults with physical and learning disabilities.