Thursday, 11 February 2016


A new RAF Association drop-in centre for former members of the RAF and other Armed Forces and for local pensioners has been officially opened in Long Eaton (Friday 29th January) by the Mayor of Erewash, Councillor Val Custance. The Erewash Branch Welfare Drop-in Centre is at 91 Grasmere Road, NG10 4DZ and will be open five days a week as a place to meet, socialise and stay active. It is being run by Association volunteers and is the brainchild of Erewash Branch Welfare Officer Marian Robinson.
“I’d been thinking for some time that we have got a lot of members who are on their own and are lonely. They don’t see anyone but their carers from morning till night, and they had nowhere to go to be sociable.
I thought it would help if they had a place where they could drop in and have a cup of tea, sit and chat or do an activity… We can also give carers a break from looking after spouses while they go on errands or shopping.The centre is on the bus route with a stop just opposite, and we have space for parking.”

Many local dignitaries attended the official opening in addition to the mayor including local ward councillors Garry and Gerri Hickton, representatives from Erewash Voluntary Action CVS,Erewash RAF Association Branch President Mike Clulow and Branch Chairman Ray Noble, Branch founder member Laurie Thorpe, Association Northern Area Director Darrell Slater-Smith and Association Welfare Director Rory O’Connor.
Mr O’Connor commented: “Loneliness and isolation are increasingly common problems for older people and this local Association initiative goes a long way to answering those needs.

“The new centre will encourage people to come into a safe and welcoming environment for a friendly get-together. The Association hopes to establish ‘Wings Cafes’ around the country to help meet the demand for this kind of community support.”
After cutting the ribbon to mark the official opening of the Erewash centre, Councillor Custance said: “I think it’s wonderful that the Association is looking after its members so well after their RAF careers are over. Being on you own in later life can be daunting, so having this centre is a great thing.”

The centre has already been opening three days a week but will switch to five days (10.30am-4pm, Monday to Friday) to offer activities including quizzes, crafts such as card-making and glass-painting, computer training, chair-based exercises, chess, carpet bowls and get-togethers for single members.

We’ve got members in their late 80s learning how to use laptops,” said Mrs Robinson. “We are organizing trips out too, including a trip to the coast and a seven-day holiday in Torquay for the more active members, and a party to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.”

Although the centre is aimed primarily at members of the RAF Association and former members of the Armed Forces and their families, anyone who is in sympathy with the Association’s aims can become an Associate Member. The premises were previously occupied by Erewash Voluntary Action but the building has been empty for several years. RAF Association volunteers have continued to prepare the premises and grounds during the period when it was partially open.

“We’ve been decorating, erecting a shed, putting up posters and pressure-washing the area at the back so that we can sit outside in the sunshine – if we have any,” said Mrs Robinson. “Without the team behind me and the vital work done byAssistant Welfare Officer Steve Jones, allthis couldn’t happen. They have put in a lot of time in getting this room ready and putting it all together.”
Mrs Robinson has devoted much of her own time to the RAF Association since joining as an Associate Member more than 20 years ago and was previously a civilian instructor with the Air Training Corps, which her son John joined as a boy. Mrs Robinson retired from her previous career as the owner of a factory making children’s and women’s clothing in 2007 due to a heart condition:
“But I couldn’t sit at home and do nothing, so I thought I might as well do something positive.