Gosport youth groups hit by blaze find new place to meet

Driftwood Festival organiser Paul Cobb  Picture: Malcolm Wells (142242-6774C)

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WHEN a blaze ripped through a hall at a sports centre for disabled people, the leaders of youth groups who used the centre were left devastated.

But now managers at Solent Day Care in Stoke Road, Christchurch, have stepped up to offer a home to more than 60 members of Hardway Girl Guides, Rainbows and Brownies, who previously met at Gosport and District Sports Association for the Disabled (GADSAD), in Elson Road.

As previously reported in The News, GADSAD suffered damage to its hall after a fire in the flat felt roof led to the kitchen, office and toilets being destroyed last week.

Kevin Loman, the deputy manager of Stoke Care, along with manager Jan Loman, will open the centre from 7pm to 9pm so that girls aged five to 16 of the 2nd Hardway Rainbows, 6th Hardway Brownies and 5th Hardway Girl Guides will have a place to meet.

Sandy Lewis, Girlguiding area representative for Hardway, said: ‘My first thought was “thank God we weren’t there for a sleepover” because we do sleepovers there, it is a designated hall for sleepovers for Brownies and Guides.

‘My next thought was that I’ve got 30 years of templates and equipment, which at the moment we still haven’t been able to access.’

And although since the fire the three groups had used St Thomas Church in Elson Lane, it was not suitable for their needs.

Sandy said she had been bowled over by the generosity of the managers at Solent Day Care.

She said: ‘They’re absolutely fantastic. We would normally be due to pay our rent in January because we pay termly and she said to me: “I don’t want any rent for anything”.’

And because the youth groups will be further away from their catchment area, Mr Loman said that he will use the centre’s minibus to pick up the youngsters and bring them to Stoke Road.

He said: ‘We felt that because we’ve got quite a big hall we would be able to offer our facilities. Certainly around Christmas time it’s important we interact with the community and when we heard about this we endeavoured to find the answers to be able to help them out.’

Other Girlguiding groups that had used GADSAD have found temporary homes at the Scout hut in Elson.