I-Vitae community centre in Kingswood appeals for investment to expand facilities

Gazette Series: Sasha Paterson, director of i-Vitae in Kingswood, with customer Lucie Jotcham, seven, and volunteer fitness instructor Sophie Levy-Benchetton Sasha Paterson, director of i-Vitae in Kingswood, with customer Lucie Jotcham, seven, and volunteer fitness instructor Sophie Levy-Benchetton

A KINGSWOOD community centre is looking for investment to develop its social hub.

Director Sasha Paterson opened i-Vitae in December 2010 to provide numerous community facilities under one roof. The multi-purpose site generates revenue from gym memberships and coffee sales, reinvesting in the community and in youth training opportunities.

The local community can use the site free of charge and the Wotton Youth Forum, the Charfield Drama Group and the Keep Kingswood a Village campaigners have all used the café.

Opened with a start-up fund of £20,000, the centre's primary income stream comes from its upstairs community social gym, which boasts over 200 members.

The team now need £30,000 for building work to redevelop the centre, moving the café from the back of the building into the bigger, front-facing space, and creating new treatment rooms. These spaces will allow micro-businesses to flourish within the site and introduce more health services to residents.

Ms Paterson, a former public sector worker, said: "It's unique that we can generate our own money, so we’re not going to be swayed by cuts or politics.

"Once we’ve done the building work, the business is so viable that we make profit, which we can reinvest in the community."

Wendy Glasgow, 58, is one of the many non-traditional gym users at i-Vitae. She said the centre had changed her life.

"I had no energy, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was finding life more and more difficult.

"It’s so nice and friendly here and people help you if you want. I think in times of austerity, community is very important."

I-Vitae is talking to local businesses about how they can together positively impact on the community. Possible re-investment opportunities include creating a farmers' market, getting ethical energy into the village and organising free internet for every household in the community.

And the community is rallying round to help with the redevelopment, offering free building work, design and materials, often in exchange for use of the i-Vitae building.

Ms Paterson said: "The world is stuck and there isn’t the money or the resources, but actually communities have amazing skills. You bring people together in a room and you can get a huge amount done."

The project could be replicated in other communities.

She added: "Once we’ve shown how it works here to have a multi-purpose hub, then we’ll open source and share the idea with other communities and that could really change things in rural areas."

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