Freemasons step in to save centre from the brink

Jenny White (centre) who is the chairwoman of the Cornelius Centre in Fratton celebrates with Mark White of the Royal Sussex Lodge of Freemasons after they donated over �2000 to help keep the centre alive.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122945-2)
Jenny White (centre) who is the chairwoman of the Cornelius Centre in Fratton celebrates with Mark White of the Royal Sussex Lodge of Freemasons after they donated over �2000 to help keep the centre alive.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122945-2)
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A lack of cash could spell the end of a charity which cares for adults with learning difficulties in a year.

But a group of freemasons have stepped in and given the Cornelius Centre, in New Road, Buckland, Portsmouth new hope.

Worshipful Master Mark White, who leads the Royal Sussex Lodge in Old Portsmouth, urged his fellow freemasons to dig deep and donate.

And the call for support was a success because Mark, who works at the University of Portsmouth, has presented the Cornelius Centre with a cheque for £1,700.

An extra £500 came from The Tom Langton Fund, which was set up by freemasons to provide money for worthy causes in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

Jenny White, 62, who has run the centre since it became an independent charity in 1993, is extremely grateful for the much-needed cash.

Jenny, who lives in Drayton, says: ‘It costs around £35,000 a year to keep the centre going.

‘We depend entirely on donations from our committee and the public. We don’t get money from the council or the government.’

The centre has an open-door policy and puts on discos, bingos and music-themed nights as well as teaching classes.

Mark decided to help out after he spoke to Jenny’s husband Brian, 62, who also works at the university, about the charity.

Mark then visited the premises and was overcome by its plight.

‘As Worshipful Master for my lodge it’s my job to help local causes, and I felt that this would be a fantastic one to help.

‘I discovered how much fun the clients had there and realised it really made a difference to their lives.

‘It’s so important the centre keeps running for these people.’

The money will go towards buying arts and crafts equipment, outdoor equipment and the refurbishment of the men’s toilets.

Jenny’s role at the centre is voluntary and 10 other people on the committee also give up their time for free.

Only the part-time cleaner, Tracey Wicks, and the centre manager, Karen Pett, are paid a wage.

Jenny rose through the ranks after initially starting as a volunteer when her mum Pamela Payne ran the centre.

Jenny’s 87-year-old mother-in-law, Doris White, is the secretary.

‘It’s very much a family-run charity,’ Jenny says.

‘People with learning difficulties need a lot of support. I empathise with them and they are let down by society.’

To donate call (023) 9273 3224.