“The year-end brings no greater pleasure than the opportunity to express to you season’s greetings and good wishes. May your holidays and new year be filled with joy.”
We hope that you are keeping well and warm now that winter has finally announced its presence to us here in Monmouthshire. We would like to start this newsletter with a big Bridges thank you to everyone who has supported us during the past 12 months, be that as a service or class user, a fundraiser, a Pantry patron, a private hirer, one of our many, many volunteers or by bringing us a shop donation – we would like to say a big THANK YOU to everybody in our amazing community!
For all of us December is a time to look back and reflect on the previous twelve months, the highs and lows of another spin around the sun. Let’s be honest, one of our lows came back in the spring with the loss of the iconic cedar tree at the front of Drybridge House. We know this was a cause of pain for many in the community and it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye due to the cedar having succumbed to Phaeolus schweinitzii (or root rot for non-Latin speakers!)
On a brighter note, a good chunk of the trunk remains and is soon to be fashioned into an everlasting sculpture by world renowned wood artist Chris Wood. Whilst the final design has yet to be decided upon we are confident that Chris will fashion something magical for us, you can see some of his previous work below.
During the spring we were thrilled to work with the Wye Valley River Festival who once again ran a series of amazing events throughout the Wye Valley area. During the colourful pageantry of the Monmouth stopover Bridges hosted workshops and a bamboo sculpture out on the lawns.
As spring warmed into a sweltering summer we were kept incredibly busy with weddings at Drybridge House, some of which had been postponed due to the pandemic (remember that?!). It was simply lovely to see so many couples finally start their life journeys together, able to celebrate with family and friends in our wonderful building. We never tire of hosting weddings and the diary is filling up with dates through to 2025. Should you or somebody you know be looking for a characterful, elegant not to mention reasonably priced setting for their big day please point them in our direction, we would love to help.
During the summer we threw our doors open to the public for anybody that needed to escape the heat. One of the benefits of the old building is that you can always find a cool spot to settle into and enjoy some shady relief. We were delighted to offer some respite to Mark Drakeford as he stopped by in late summer to pay us a visit, taking in a stop at Social Circles as well as the community fridge.
We were also in attendance at Art in Penallt back in August, the amazing festival celebrating local artists, held once again at Humble by Nature on the edge of Penallt village. We were incredibly touched to be chosen as one of their nominated charities this year, with Social Circles receiving a donation of a whopping £3,000! Thank you to all at Art in Penallt!!!
Autumn seemed to take a while to decide if it wanted to join us but when it did finally arrive and the heat finally left us our hearts were instead warmed by one of our volunteers scooping a Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations award.
Jim Newcombe shared the top award in the Health & Wellbeing category which recognises volunteers who give their time to make a positive impact on the physical and mental health of the community.
Our Volunteer Coordinator, Marianne Piper, nominated Jim for the award and had this to say about him:
“Jim is an amazing volunteer, always keen to help with a smile on his face and his warm encouraging manner. The sheer number of voluntary roles he pursues is remarkable and with each one he undertakes, he has the best interests of the people he works with at heart. Few people work harder to make the lives of others better and the Volunteering for Wellbeing project are so very lucky to have him as one of our team.”
Rounding out the year we hosted our first ever toy swap, an initiative to help reduce, reuse and recycle pre-loved toys instead of sending them off to landfill. We managed to swap 40 toys at the event, all going to new owners in time for Christmas.
Our weekly ‘warm welcome’ sessions also commenced in December, offering a timely escape to some warmth, a bite to eat as well as some fun activities to anybody and everybody in the local community. So far the activities have included table tennis, board games, a welcome to knitting session and a make your own Christmas decoration craft session.
The Disability and Inclusion projects hosted a fabulous Christmas Party in the Ballroom for 100 of their service users. Guests were greeted with a mince pie and mulled wine whilst a brass band got the party started. A hog roast kept everybody fed, Santa popped in to distribute gifts and a DJ got everyone in the dancing spirit. The party was a resounding success for all involved.
Whist we are very much looking forward to a well earned rest over the festive period we are already looking ahead to a busy 2023 and we can’t wait to welcome you back to Bridges in the new year. All that remains is a word from our Business Director –
“It’s at times like this that Bridges comes into its own and it’s incredibly heartwarming to help the community in any way we can. Our incredible volunteers put in so much work asking nothing in return – we literally couldn’t do it without them and I want to wish them a particularly wonderful Christmas. There’s lots of exciting plans afoot for 2023 and beyond which will ensure that we can continue doing great things for our amazing community so do please watch this space.”
We will be closing the centre on Friday 23rd December at 4.00pm and re-opening on Tuesday January 3rd at 9.00am.
From all of us at Bridges – we wish you and your families a happy, joyous and peaceful Christmas & New Year.