Toy library given lifeline thanks to lottery grant

Connors Toy Libraries at St Cuthberts Church pre-school. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150329-1)
Connors Toy Libraries at St Cuthberts Church pre-school. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150329-1)
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A community group for families has been saved from closure after a £360,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The donation means Connors Toy Library service – which supports 1,300 families each year through play, free toy loans, special needs training and home visits – will now operate at full capacity for three years.

Connors manager Karen Drayton said: ‘We probably would have closed if it wasn’t for this money so it is fantastic that we have been awarded the grant.

‘It means that we can continue the work that we do throughout Portsmouth and the surrounding area.’

The charity helps many families after several Sure Start centres in the Portsmouth closed in 2013.

Connors which has been working with families for 42 years, has 13 centres, and its army of 31 volunteers and nine part-time staff is looking to expand after losing bases in five council-run centres.

The community group also offers outreach programmes for families that are new to the area or might be having a difficult time with a child.

Lyndsey-Marie Vincent from Eastney is one of the parents who has been helped by staff at Connors.

She said: ‘I moved to the area four years ago when I was pregnant with my son. The only time I would interact with any other parent was when I was on the school run.’

When Lyndsey was pregnant with her third child she was referred to the charity by her midwife.

‘I have now been going to the centre twice a week for two and half years,’ she said.

‘It means that I get to talk to other parents and the kids get enjoy playing with lots of talks and other children.’

The grant is the second to be given to the community group which was saved at the 11th 
hour in 2012 with a donation of almost £300,000 by the lottery fund.