Transformation for Forest Hall Community Centre thanks to £49,000 Newcastle Building Society Grant Release date: 02 October A popular North Tyneside community centre is set for a transformation after winning almost £50,000 of funding from Newcastle Building Society. Springfield Community Association in Forest Hill has become the first beneficiary of the Society's new Building Improvement Grant initiative, which was set up to help community groups or charities in the region make improvements to their buildings. A £49,110 grant from the Society's Community Fund at the Community Foundation will enable the Association to completely refurbish its 40 year-old community centre, which sits close to the playground on the edge of Springfield Park. The first phase of work, which is to be carried out by a team of local contractors, will begin this month with the installation of an accessible toilet and new baby change facilities, and a refit of the gents toilet facilities. The main entrance to the building will be moved, with the current lobby space being converted into a more user-friendly space that can be used for different activities, and a new kitchen will also be added to allow for full catering facilities to be offered to the groups and individuals that rent the centre for their events and functions. The project is scheduled to be completed next summer, with work being carried out progressively during school holiday periods to minimise any disruption to users. The Association is hoping to open a new community cafe once the new space is available to provide a convenient location for different parts of the community to come together, and it is hoping to offer service users at the nearby Percy Hedley Foundation the chance to gain new skills and work experience there. Run by a 20-strong team of volunteers, Springfield Community Centre provides a home for a wide range of local events and activities, from Zumba sessions, Tae-kwon-do and yoga through to dog training classes, parent & toddlers’ groups and private family functions. Linda Hoffman, secretary at Springfield Community Association, says: "The centre is much loved and very well used every single day, but it's been increasingly showing its age in the last few years and the need to make major improvements was becoming ever more obvious. "We talked to our users about the sorts of improvements they wanted to see made and have tried to tailor the improvements that we're going to make to provide what they wanted to see. "Creating a new cafe space that everyone can access will make a massive difference to our local community, and will encourage even more people to make use of what we offer, while involving the Percy Hedley Foundation will give their service users new opportunities to develop skills and self-confidence. "The Newcastle Building Society funding that we've won means we can make this project happen years quicker than would otherwise have been possible, and that we can programme all the work in one go, rather than having to do things bit by bit. "We're extremely grateful for the Society's generous support and excited to see how the Centre transforms over the coming months." Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £250,000 in grants to projects across the Society's North East and Cumbria heartland, and is so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 97,000 people. Alongside the Building Improvement Grants, Society customers are able to nominate charities and community groups in or around the Society's branch network for smaller grants of up to £3,000. Andrew Haigh, chief executive at Newcastle Building Society, said: "Supporting our communities is core to what we do, and our Building Improvement Grants scheme recognises that strong communities need appropriate and practical community buildings at their heart. "Springfield Community Centre is a fantastic example of such a thriving facility that plays a central part in local life, and awarding this grant to the dedicated team of volunteers that look after it will help ensure it can offer everything that local people need for many years to come." The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and provides an ongoing source of financial support for charities and community groups that the Society's customers nominate for making an important difference to the region Applications for the next phase of grants can be made in any Society branch or via the newcastle.co.uk website by customers who wish to support their local communities.