A SERVICE that helps adults with learning disabilities find friendship and love has been made a registered charity – potentially saving it from closure.
Fareham-based Stars in the Sky feared it would have to close due to cuts in funding.
But now it has been given new hope after it changed from being a not-for-profit organisation to an independent registered charity, which enables it to apply for more funding.
Darren Paddon and Melanie Mckay met through the charity and have recently got engaged. They now live in Portchester.
Darren, 30, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said: ‘It gives people who have got disabilities an outlet to meet each other and socialise, that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
‘At first I didn’t want to admit that I had a disability. But when you get over that, you realise that you’ve got a disability and there’s nothing that you can do about it, but that you can make the best of your life.
‘I know I’m only 30 but you get to a stage where you think “am I going to meet someone?”.
‘If you meet outside of Stars some people will take advantage of disabled people because a lot of them are vulnerable. Stars gives people who are vulnerable a chance to have a normal life.
‘It makes you feel that you have got the support. Sometimes it’s hard to know who you can talk to. Stars and the staff give us a lot of support.’
Melanie, 24, has moderate learning difficulties and she is deaf. She said that joining Stars has been worthwhile because she met Darren.
‘It was love at first sight,’ she said. ‘He’s sweet and he’s kind, and he cares about me.
‘It’s really good, you make lots of new friends.’
The couple will get married in August next year.
Nicole Hamerton, project manager for Stars, said: ‘There would be members who would go back to sitting in their bedrooms if it wasn’t for Stars.
‘Fifty per cent of members would have to go back to isolation. This is their only form of socialisation.
‘We are thrilled we are back to standing on our own feet.
‘The members are thrilled. We have got a second office now which makes a huge difference.’
The charity is looking for volunteers. To find out more call 01329 826423.