NOTTINGHAM-based mental health charity Improving Lives has celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special event in the ballroom of the city’s Council House in Old Market Square.
More than 80 people attended the afternoon tea event, including staff, volunteers, service users and guests including the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, Cllr David Trimble, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Cllr Merlita Bryan and Improving Lives’ newest patron, broadcaster John Holmes, MBE.
They gathered to celebrate the achievements of the award-winning charity, based in Mansfield Road, which supports people across the city experiencing social isolation and long-term mental health conditions.
Kerry Devine, Improving Lives’ interim CEO, said:
“We were incredibly excited to host this special event as a way of saying thank you to all the people who have supported us over the last decade, in particular people who have used our service and continue to help us develop the organisation.
“It was amazing to see many of our volunteers and people who use the service in person as the Covid-19 restrictions come to an end. The charity has had an unparalleled positive effect on the people it has supported – there have been many occasions where we have helped people to completely reframe their situation and be an active member of their community.
“Without the amazing team of volunteers and the organisations and businesses that have helped us financially and with other support, none of this would be possible. We are constantly shown just how generous the people of Nottingham can be with their time and attention.”
As well as providing emotional support, Improving Lives helps with benefits, debt and cost of living issues, physical health issues, substance misuse and home and safety issues – helping nearly 1,100 people over the decade, including more than 317 people in 2021.
It was initially created to support vulnerable people by social worker Wendy Silberman in 2006. Called Integritas, it dealt with referrals from the vulnerable adults’ panel in Sneinton and St Ann’s before evolving into the Improving Lives Notts charity.
The Lord Mayor kicked off the anniversary celebration with a welcoming address in which he praised the charity’s work and its positive impact on so many people.
The audience included service user Alfred Grant 68, who said:
“Improving Lives have helped solve many of my debt issues and have managed to help me get my mental health in order.
“My life is better, my health is better, and my mental health is better. The best thing that has happened to me is being referred by social services to Improving Lives two years ago. Without them, I would be in a far worse place, physically and mentally.”
Eddy Keon, 74, the longest-serving of the charity’s 18 volunteers, said:
In my seven years of volunteering, I have always tried to bring people out of their homes and out of their shells by encouraging them to go to art centres and libraries. There are so many wonderful facilities in Nottingham to help bring people out of their loneliness.
“I have been running a monthly art class for five years now, and watching people exchange skills and bring happiness to each other is a truly amazing thing.”
The charity has run a number of successful projects over the years, including the Two Trees Project, supporting people using secondary mental health services with regular social groups and accompanying them to medical appointments.
Dr Mike Harris, chair of the Improving Lives Board, said the charity excelled at helping those people who ‘fall between the gaps of statutory services’ and said there had been a massive impact on such services from financial cutbacks.
He praised the charity’s ‘fabulous’ volunteers, support workers, patrons and trustees, partners from a wide range of services in Nottingham, as well as supporters including Shoosmiths solicitors.
The charity has recently been awarded a multi-year grant from the National Lottery Community Fund for the launch in March of the ‘Your Journey’ project which will support 300 people living in the city.
Those successfully referred will receive tailored one-to-one support and access to a host of activity and wellbeing groups with the aim of reducing social isolation, improving physical and mental health, and increasing independence and financial security for those living with long-term mental health conditions.
To discover how to become involved with Improving Lives or to make a donation, please visit their website: https://www.improvinglivesnotts.org.uk/, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.