A Ripon group that provides a much-valued social lifeline for adults with learning disabilities, has celebrated its 25th anniversary surrounded by friends and supporters.
There was a strong community and family feel at the youth centre next to Outwood Academy on Saturday, as members, volunteers and invited guests came together to reflect on the success of Ripon Activity Project (RAP) and how much of a difference it has made to people's lives over the years - bringing friendship, joy, laughter, and a wide range of fun and accessible activities to everybody who has been a part of it.
From the moment that the 'Gazette arrived at the anniversary celebrations, it was clear just how much the group means to so many - Stevie Blair, who has been going along for many years, was greeting guests as they arrived, and spoke passionately about the great work that RAP does. He said: "It's an honour to be part of Ripon Activity Project - the people here are amazing, and I hope that we can keep it going for the next 25 years and beyond."
The project offers everything from arts and crafts sessions and social outings, to a varied programme of cultural and physical activities that's included things like line dancing and salsa dancing.
On Saturday, speeches were made about the history and impact of RAP, and members and volunteers had fun doing arts and crafts together - excellently accompanied by live music from their peers, and tasty food that came in the form of two special anniversary cakes and other refreshments.
Susan Williamson, who has been volunteering for RAP for 17 years, was among those helping out with the arts and crafts on the day.
She said: "It's a fantastic group - it's so lovely to see the enthusiasm of those who come along and enjoy the activities. It's a great chance to get out and meet people and try something new."
Members Ellen Hirst, Emma Schofield and Rachel Addison said they love the social side of RAP and being able to meet up with friends. Rachel also specifically said she enjoys all the arts and crafts.
Joy Rayden, who was part of the original committee that set up RAP, said: "Ripon Activity Project gives people a bit of change in their life, because otherwise it can be very routine. It gives people an opportunity to take part in all sorts of different activities.
"And it gives people a social aspect to their lives which can be difficult to get if you are an adult with learning disabilities. It builds up people's self-confidence, and it gives you a set of skills, both volunteers and members. We have seen people improve in their self-confidence."
Jerry Anderson, who has been a volunteer for RAP for 18 years, and the chairman for 15 of those, said: “I’m delighted that RAP has reached its silver anniversary. I don’t think the creators of RAP thought it would last for so long, otherwise they would not have called it a ‘project’.
“Our members enjoy the different activities and it is an important event for them. I thoroughly enjoy my voluntary work which is very rewarding, and I am indebted to the other volunteers especially Maggie Cobbett and Sue Williamson, who started volunteering not long after me. I am also indebted to my wife Carole for the support she gives, and to Heather Gerry, another regular volunteer.”
"Our biggest challenge is in recruiting new volunteers, as most of us have been volunteering for well over 15 years. We are advertised in the HARCVS volunteering directory but have had very few enquiries. If anybody would like to consider volunteering, then please contact me."
To find out more about volunteering for RAP, or taking part in their activities, email email@example.com or call 01423 780315.
RAP currently has 25 members from across Ripon, Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge and Masham.