NEON (Networking in East Oldham Neighbourhoods) is a community led charity working to address shortfalls in service provision. Based in the old District Town Hall, NEON is not only a hub for activities and support for the people of St Mary’s, St James’ and Waterhead Wards (as well as the wider Oldham community), it is a lifeline – and for many it has become their family.
Staffed completely by volunteers, Neon has grown in response to the community’s need – responding to loneliness, isolation, addiction, deterioration in the community’s mental health, unemployment and poverty. Life is a daily challenge for many in East Oldham.
“People have no aspirations, the library shut down four years ago. There is no post office and the health centres are being hammered!”
Formed in 2011 (moving into our current home in 2013), NEON hosts a weekly Citizen’s Advice Bureau drop in, a Brunch Club every Friday, Knit and Natter sessions, Cooking Classes to promote healthy eating (a new kitchen has just been installed) and has hosted a job club. We signpost people to services such as food, clothing and energy banks and other services such as mental health support. Neon also runs a successful Men’s Club. Primarily for middle aged men the club has started a Camera Club, tried pitch and putt, Tai Chi and Yoga, got involved with ‘Veg in the Park’, taken part in Cooking Classes and volunteered within the local community. The aim is to get the members out and about, to encourage them to make friends and look externally to engage with the world around them, to break patterns of self- destructive behaviour and to provide valuable life skills. Key to sustaining the involvement of members is to have a diverse and engaging programme of activities meaning that the Men’s Club needs to constantly evolve.
Trustees have set out a range of priorities including obtaining funding to employ a full time worker, signing a long term lease with the Council and ensuring projects have enough funding to last for the long term. Another priority was to completely refurbish the kitchen and thanks to grants from Action Together Oldham and Big Local we have created a great space for cooking. We are also close to signing the lease agreement with Oldham Council.
We know there is more to do but with our partners and strong support from local people we are confident of success.