Client Story

Welcome In Community Centre

  • Location: Leeds
  • Sector: Community Services
  • Amount: £150k
  • Purpose: Refurbishment
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Meet Alisa
Alisa has been the Manager at OPAL (Older Peoples’ Action in the Locality) since 2004, and shares the story of one Saturday in lockdown when she picked up the phone after an elderly woman had been referred by the local council for a food parcel.

Key Fund support enabled OPAL to move to the new premises in 2017, and for the space to become usable and start generating income. With three investments in total, the last tranche for £50k in 2020, completed the interior.


OPAL (Older Peoples’ Action in the Locality) gives direct support to 700 people. Partnering with local schools to create volunteer opportunities for young people, its services aim to tackle a wide range of health and well-being issues within the elderly community.

The Challenge

With cramped offices and a three-month notice on the lease, OPAL decided to embed certainty into their future by fundraising to buy a derelict pub, The Bedford Arms in North Leeds, and renovate it for their ‘Welcome In Community Centre’.

As a lot of the information about Covid was online, many elderly people didn’t have access to relevant information. So, working together with local groups, churches and councillors, we delivered 1300 leaflets across the community to signpost the support we were offering.

Since many of our team of 100 volunteers were over 60 years old and considered at-risk, we worked with Voluntary Action Leeds to recruit 200 new volunteers. All 700 elderly members were phoned to check in for support needs, many matched with a phone buddy to receive regular calls. It was crucial as there were vulnerable people left without access to food; with the internet they couldn’t secure an online shopping slot!

We worked every Bank Holiday and on Saturdays, because the need was consistent. I thought I needed to get a food parcel to this lady that day. It transpired, she lived in a little flat, hidden away at the end of a cul-de-sac, so nobody would walk past. She had big posters in the window saying, ‘Please give me food. I’m hungry. I can’t get out.’ I dropped the bags at the doorstop. She was in an horrendous way – you could tell she was a very poorly lady, and very nervous about touching the bags, but she needed the food. She’s someone we supported for a couple of weeks and she ended up in hospital. The desperation there was awful.

Alisa – The Welcome Inn

Financially, Ailsa has had sleepless nights as funding becomes more competitive, but her goal is to make the building as sustainable as possible.

The Solution
There’s been some very sad and difficult moments, but very rewarding ones too. It’s a life changing job. There are people that tell us quite regularly they don’t know what they’d do without OPAL.

We are very dynamic in the way we’re moving forwards with the café, with room hire and partnership work. We’ve done a joint project with one of the local churches and a local cluster of schools on Holiday Hunger. It’s always about addressing local needs and making a stronger community. More than that, OPAL has been, and is, a literal lifeline.

The Feedback
Key Fund support was integral to purchase our community building. The space means we can react and turn things around in 24 hours. We wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done if we didn’t have this facility!

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