Mental health charity helps kickstart building conversion

A local mental health charity is starting preparatory work on a £400,000 building conversion project that is scheduled to begin in spring 2020.

Service users from the woodwork department of Blyth Star Enterprises’ Woodfuel Centre have begun to craft and replace windows at the Old Chandlery, Blyth, in preparation for its upcoming transformation into eight spacious, supported living apartments.

The Old Chandlery building was previously used as a base for Blyth Star to deliver its innovative range of day services, including cookery classes and art and craft workshops, prior to a recent move to the repurposed Steamboat building. The conversion into new apartments has now been made possible by generous donations from The Bradbury Foundation, The Edward Gostling Foundation, The Barbour Trust, William Leech Charity, The Hospital of God at Greatham and CRASH charity.

The Woodfuel Centre’s manager, Neil Hedley, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our service users. They’re excited to implement the skills they’ve learnt as part of such an important project.

“Our clients really enjoy getting involved with work that benefits the local community as well as their peers. The conversion project is highly anticipated and it’s great that we can be involved in the creation of the new supported living facilities.

“We’re really pleased to play such a big part in the preparation work as the building means a lot to us. We look forward to seeing the finished transformation and will be on hand to assist throughout the project.”

The Woodfuel Centre is one of two small businesses operated by Blyth Star Enterprises which provides sheltered working environments for service users to learn essential skills and gain structured exposure to the local community. The Sleekburn-based centre produces sustainably-sourced, kiln-dried kindling and logs for wood-burning stoves as well as various made-to-order sculptures through its dedicated woodwork depot.

While attending the Woodfuel Centre, service users can also complete an in-house vocational training programme which offers the opportunity to acquire higher-level skills and qualifications. The course is tailored to fit an individual’s needs and progression is assessed and monitored through the use of a personal care profile which tracks how users are developing throughout each module.

Gordon Moore, chief executive at Blyth Star Enterprises, said:

“Being able to convert one of our buildings into a supported living environment means so much to us and to the people involved. It’s great that the Woodfuel Centre can assist in the building’s conversion as service users have the chance to demonstrate the skills that they’ve acquired through attending the Centre.

“It’s important that our service users are given these opportunities as it helps them continue to grow, build self-worth and confidence whilst interacting with the local community.

“Blyth Star Enterprises is committed to providing high-quality services across Northumberland and look to help as many people as we can. A project of this size involves partnerships with the local council as well as other grant funding charities so we’re extremely grateful to all who have made this project possible. We wouldn’t be able to complete such fantastic work without the generosity of others and we’re always open to new partnerships and support.”

Blyth Star Enterprises is a not-for-profit charity providing living support services, training and sheltered employment opportunities. It offers innovative day services to over 350 people living with learning disabilities and lifelong mental health issues across Northumberland and the North East.

To learn more about Blyth Star Enterprises and The Woodfuel Centre visit: