People power sees library reopen as Chadwell Heath Community Centre
PUBLISHED: 11:06 07 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:06 07 October 2014
Two years since it was first threatened with the axe, a library has been given a new lease of life at the heart of the community that fought to save it.
The Chadwell Heath Community Centre officially opened to the public on Saturday, marking the final step in a battle to save the former Robert Jeyes Library after council cuts threatened the service it provided and residents stepped in.
Now an official charity, the centre has about 40 volunteers who are continuing to run a “full” but slightly “pared down” library service open at least five days a week, with three spaces that can be rented out to community groups.
Green Shoes Arts, a local drama group, is set to use the main hall on a regular basis with a children’s centre, including activities for parents and toddlers, already underway as well as a canasta card game club.
The centre was awarded two grants, totalling £12,500 for refurbishment including furniture and equipment. It will cost an estimated £20,000 per year to maintain.
Chairman of the Chadwell Heath Community Centre charity, Ann Estlea, said: “Without exception, everybody that has walked in has had their jaws dropping, because the building looks so different inside.”
The supply of books for the library still falls under the council’s control, thought the centre will make its own recommendations based on customer feedback. Three are no longer CD’s or DVD’s for rent, but audio books are available.
Customers can use the self-service machines to take out items when there are not enough volunteers working to man all the desks.
A board of five trustees has been put together by retired nurse Mrs Estlea, that includes West and Coe Funeral Directors boss Jeremy West MBE and a handful of former councillors and charity organisers, upon whom she can call for advice as chairman.
“I do feel very proud of what I have been able to achieve,” said Mrs Estlea, of West Road, Chadwell Heath. “But it will only survive if the community uses it, supports it and raises funds for it.
“I have done my bit, I need the community to take it as their own now.”
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