We had a fabulous Christmas lunch just before Christmas, with 60 people coming to eat, pull crackers and enjoy the music. Many thanks to the generous donor who once again funded our Christmas Lunch and enabled us to offer this free lunch to regular users of the Centre, and to Al Garnsworthy from the Chocolate Society who donated the delicious chocolates given to all the diners. (Chocoholics, if you haven't tried these chocolates, head over to High Winds Farm, Higher Holton just outside Wincanton; these are artisan chocolatiers right on our doorstep!). A big thank you too, to the wonderful handbell ringers who came to entertain us after lunch - you were fantastic! This year the crackers contained small handbells so everyone had a go before the lunch started and then heard how it was really done...
And a HUGE thank you to Maggie, who cooked the lunch with her team of 7 volunteers, along with staff, who wellied in to peel 15kg of potatoes and 25kg of other vegetables. And don't forget Aly, the volunteer you never see, who comes in just to wash up, helped this year by Claire.
A new Lip-Reading class has started on Tuesday mornings, for anyone struggling with their hearing, particularly when in noisy social situations. The room now has a Loop System, so if your hearing aids allow it, you can tune in to the tutor directly via your hearing aids. Please note: the class has stopped for Christmas and New Year now and will return on 22nd Januray 2019.
Coming up in 2019, there is a new group starting Thursday 10th January 2019, teaching Coding and Programming. This is a course for absolute beginners to learn how to write in code and learn to programme - ideal if you want to make a website or have an idea for an app!
Out in Milborne Port, Claire is teaching tennis for young people and beginners, Saturday mornings, 9.30am - 11.30am.
The Breastfeeding Support group is now the Breastfeeding Cafe! Run by trained mums to support other mums, a chance to get advice and meet other mums. There will also be Antenatal Information Sessions run through the year, for further practical advice - next session 29th January 2018.
Tuesday Craft and Play is a play session for under 5s and their parents/carers. Open to all, it runs on Tuesdays, 9am - 11am. A chance for children and their families to play together!
IT Drop-ins are continuing for anyone with a tablet, mobile phone or laptop they need help in using. We have 4 great volunteers who can give you individual support.
We have Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Blast Class... great exercise classes to relax, refresh and lift your mood.
Our Family Worker, Kelly, had a road trip to the Baby Basics headquarters in Ilminster to collect this beautiful mosses basket hamper for one of the families that we support here at the Balsam Centre. Lisa at Baby Basics is providing an amazing service to families in need of baby supplies and we were lucky to be able to work with them to provide much needed support. The kindness and effort put into each basket is amazing. Thank you Baby Basics South Somerset
With Sport Relief in full swing to raise money for charities like ours, our Maternal Mental Health project has been in the news as one of the projects that Comic Relief funded last year. (Comic Relief and Sport Relief run alternate years). Kelly and some of the mums have been interviewed on the radio and tv recently to talk about the project and what it has meant to mums taking part. Now we are being featured in a tv programme following Annie Price as she prepares to have a baby.
Annie found out her mum had experienced postnatal depression and Annie was worried that she too might experience it after her baby was born. So she came along to find out more.
You can see the whole programme by clicking on this link.
Qualified, experienced Youth Worker required for Wincanton. The role will include development work and two evening sessions a week. One year contract.
For details and application form contact the Balsam Centre 01963 31842.
If you are looking for work, do drop in to our Job Club on Fridays.
The Winter Fair, formerly HFT Fair, had another very successful event this year. In just 3 hours on the 17th November, the fair raised over £10,000! All credit to the fantastic team that make up the Winter Fair Committee. They collect an enormous amount of clothes, cakes, jams, bric-a-brac, handbags, scarves, jewellery, paintings and pictures to sell on the day, sort it all into separate stands, and then run the stands on the day along with a very good tombola.
This year, they were joined by some of our own volunteers who helped to load and unload, sell entry tickets, and kept stallholders refreshed with teas and coffees, as well as running the Balsam Centre information and craft stand. MANY THANKS to the volunteers who helped out - Tom, Phil, Richard, Liz, Alison, Janice, Chloe, Jazz, Paris, Claire, Tony, Lynn, Jackie A, Jackie H and Terina.
Our previous windows were 30 or so years old and were well and truly showing their age, with serious condensation between the panes. My favourite window was the one in the office that gave the ghostly wail when the wind blew....
Replacing all the windows is an expensive job - enter Viridor Credits to the rescue! We now have silent, draught-free, double glazed windows - this is going to make such a difference, especially in the winter. To the groups that use the Veronica Room - you can now see out of the windows!!
Viridor Credits mission is "to make a positive difference to local communities by providing funding opportunities for projects from the Landfill Communities Fund", which they have certainly achieved here, and we would like to thank them too for all their support during the funding process.
Nick Berry from Viridor Credits visits the Memory Group to see the new windows in the Veronica Room
We are delighted to announce that the Masonic Charitable Foundation have given us £15,000 - many thanks to those of you who voted for us on their website. We are thrilled to have won the grant; it will help us to continue the valuable services that we offer here.
There are many ways to raise money for The Balsam Centre. Maybe you'd like to do something fun whilst raising money...
Would your company be interested in volunteering with us for the day? Emily Sheaf is our latest company volunteer, spending the day helping people to get online and use their tablets or smartphones. In June Spark came to volunteer for us, running the Loose Ends Cafe one Tuesday - delicious chilli! And Wincanton Racecourse are coming next week, helping us to treat the Art Shed. It's a great way for your team to get out together and get involved in the community - and it's fun!
Robert Frith Opticians completed a sponsored walk for us, raising a fantastic £500 for the Mens Shed Project and our own Berry Bernsen ran the Marathon for us last year. If you might be interested in a sponsored walk, we can even help you plan and reccy the walk with our own volunteers.
Emily Sheaf from Enterprise Car Hire in the IT Drop-in
If you are interested in company volunteering or taking on a team fundraising challenge - or if you have any other ideas - talk to Sue or Annette, 01963 31842.
Photo: Oscar Yoosefinejad
The original men's shed - the old mortuary to the hospital! - was getting a little low on space. It had put off potential shedders who hadn't envisaged building new friendships to mean getting THAT close. And there was just no space for the new lathe to operate safely.
So with support from SSDC, The Blackmore Vale Lions, a generous donor and pooling subs and sales, the Men's Shed commissioned a new shed to join the old one. An interconnecting door means the roller shutter door doesn't need to be opened in winter - a definite bonus! We even managed to coax the Countess of Wessex through the door.
If you are interested in joining the Mens Shed, pop in on a Tuesday or Thursday morning from 10am for a cuppa - you won't have to share a stool anymore!!.
This is a friendly group who enjoy coming together for building and banter and we welcome new members whatever their ability.
Many thanks once again to Jane and Bill Hopkins for opening up their beautiful gardens at Compton Castle to visitors earlier this summer, raising a fantastic £5215.41 for The Balsam Centre, beating last year's figure by £1300.
The weather was delightful - no rain this year - which helped I'm sure to swell the numbers. It was just the perfect place to spend a English summer's afternoon. There were cream teas, cakes, ice creams, candy floss, Pimms, along with a produce stand, the Men's Shed and local vendors.
A BIG thank you to all the volunteers who came out to stand on the entrance, and wander with collection buckets, along with those who made cakes for us and gave us produce to sell.
The Balsam Centre welcomed Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex to the Centre in November, with children from both Conkers and Balsam Nursery to greet her as she arrived.
Her Royal Highness had a tour of the Centre, meeting beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and trustees, and dropped in on a number of the different social, therapeutic and support groups and activities taking place that day. In every group and activitiy, The Countess of Wessex stopped and chatted to people, playing with the children in the Balsam Multiples group, and helping the IT learners to download apps. Everyone enjoyed meeting her!
Following her tour, we had the official launch of the Well Wessex group of charities. The four established charities working together to improve mental health in Somerset are: The Balsam Centre, Creativity Works, Heads Up! and Chard Watch. Each charity has its own individual approach and all include use of peer support to assist in recovery and maintenance of good mental health and wellbeing. The charities have been developing a new and effective model to meet the many challenges and changes currently taking place in the field of mental health.
We said goodbye to Jazz Bailey at the cafe, who has been a great volunteer with us since she was 14. Jazz came with little cooking skills and leaves us a very proficient cook who has been making delicious meals with confidence - her Lemon Meringue Pie is legendary! We will miss her friendly, cheerful and calm demeanour in the kitchen but we wish her all the very best for her next adventure as she sets off to Strode College.
A new member of the volunteering team has joined the kitchen - Maggie! Maggie is a cook with experience of cooking for large numbers of people and we are thrilled she is taking on the Loose Ends Cafe.
The Loose Ends Cafe serves lunch every Tuesday 12.45pm, with a meat/fish or vegetarian option, dessert and tea/coffee
If you are interested in joining the team, you don't have to have the experience that Maggie has, just a willingness to help out. It could be helping someone with special needs to volunteer in the kitchen, guiding them as they cook. Or maybe a group from your business would like to come and volunteer with us for the day, as a team from SPARK did recently.
Contact Annette 01963 31842 for more information.
Led by artist Sophie Bellars, the community came together to create a series of mixed media artworks to commemorate the men and women who fought in WW1, involving students from Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School, along with residents of Carrington House, the Guides and Wincanton Youth Club. Wincanton Museum and History Society and the Library brought together documents and artifacts from the period.
The event culminated on the 5th July with historical exhibitions at the Library and Museum and with the artwork on display at The Balsam Centre where we were joined by the Chapel Cross Tearoom Choir who sang songs from the period.
During WW1, a local young woman, Constance Bailward, was a nurse in the hospital installed at the Priory. She filled a sketchbook full of drawings and verse, describing daily life at the hospital. This fantastic historical resource was one of the central pieces of the event, and inspired the drama created by the students from King Arthur's school.
Women from Carrington House worked with Sophie to create a roll-call of those from the community who lost their lives in WW1, embroidering the names and regimental insignia to create a large patchwork blanket. It was an opportunity for women to come together and talk about how they learnt and used their sewing skills over their lifetimes.
The 2nd Wincanton Guides took their inspiration from WW1 weapons. The Museum lent them some original weapons from the war, allowing the Guides to get a sense of what it might be like to be in the midst of war.
Starting with their initial reactions to the weapons, Sophie worked with the Guides to paint and print onto fabric, and the Guides then sewed the pieces together to recreate the missiles in the form of soft sculptures.
Year 5 pupils from the primary school collaborated with year 7 and 8 pupils from King Arthur's to study the stain glass windows in St Peter's and St Paul's Church. One of the windows depicts St George and was paid for by a local family to commemorate their son who was killed at the Somme - St George's face might be that of Lance Corporal Cash. The pupils designed and painted their own stained glass windows to put up in the Balsam Centre for the WW1 Heritage exhibition.
Sophie joined with members of the Youth Club to look at the story of a local lad, Harry Hamblin who lived on West Hill and was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
After joining the Reserves, Harry was drafted into a Navy battalion and sent to the front. After recovering from an initial injury, he was sent back to the front where he was killed. Using a photograph of Harry in uniform, the club told his story through a series of images and text to create a time-line of the events that led up to his death.
Susan Huggins, Drama Director and co-creator of The Ministry of Play and Director of The Octagon Theatre Company, Yeovil, worked with Year 9 Drama students to create a work inspired by Nurse Bailward’s sketchbook which was performed in the gardens at the Balsam Centre as part of the Sketches of Wartime Wincanton.
The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people.
Whilst the work of the Centre is long term, funding for its projects and services is all too frequently short term.
It is largely thanks to help from a fund created by a legacy left by one person, that the Balsam Centre has been able to continue its mental health work over the last few years. The help that this has given hundreds of people is a permanent and living memorial to that person’s generosity.
If you are thinking of donating, have you considered becoming a Friend of the Balsam Centre? This is a commitment to regular giving of any amount, at any interval, by standing order, and even better, if you are a UK tax payer and you ‘tick’ to say so, we can claim another 25% on top of your donation to support the work of the Centre. Become a Friend here!
We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account.
The site will ask for your name, email address and a password. You can choose your favourite shops, or just use their search bar to find the product you are looking for. When you buy in this way, the retailer will donate an amount to us, and you can see exactly what you have donated. This is a great way for people who would like to support us to do so whilst doing their normal online shopping! All the big retailers are there, Amazon, Ebay, supermarkets, and department stores. Happy Shopping! And thank you for supporting us!!
We now have a Virgin Giving charity page where you can donate directly, and Virgin will collect the tax for us! Just click on the button below.