Princess Diana once visited it and it’s got its own triathlon team, Henshaws charity may be a familiar name locally but how many people know the full range of what it does or what its own story is?
Or that this Harrogate and Knaresborough-based charity for the blind and other people with disabilities has a lengthy and distinguished history?
Henshaws - More history than you think
The charity which supports people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to go beyond expectations is bigger and has been going longer than readers may have thought.
Founded in 1837, Henshaws is 180-years-old. Its original base is Manchester but, during the 1960s, it was demolished to make way for new office buildings.
So in 1971 Henshaws reopened at its current site on Bogs Lane in Harrogate, which is where its Specialist College still stands today.
As times have changed, so has its name. In 1921, it was Henshaw’s Institution for the Blind, in January 1971 it changed to Henshaw’s Society for the Blind, and in 2000 it became Henshaws Society for Blind People.
Contributing to the local economy
Henshaws employs 360 members of staff of which 292 work in Yorkshire.
In total 80% of those employed in Yorkshire live in the Harrogate or Knaresborough post code area.
Through its Arts and Crafts Centre at Bond End in Knaresborough where students can develop and exhibit their skills, Henshaws has become a hub for creative events.
Helping people to be Independent is key
If there’s one priority this charity strives to achieve above all else, it’s helping people living with sight loss or other disabilities be more independent.
Henshaws works closely with North Yorkshire County Council to provide Supported Housing in Harrogate vital to empower disabled individuals to live more independent lives.
James, Seb and Scott are a group of young friends in their 20s who now live together happily in one of the Henshaws houses.
Enablement officer Baz said: ”If you’re in your early 20s, independence is key to your life. Initially, the hardest part about sharing a house was n’t arguments about who does the dishes, but making sure everyone had a familiar routine and enough support to make the house a home.”
“There is a vital need for more accessible housing in Harrogate which is why we are raising funds this Christmas to convert another property into a home for local young disabled people.”
Princess Di was a fan
Princess Diana visited Henshaws College on February 28, 1989 to meet staff and students.
Princess Anne visited Henshaws College in 1992.
Henshaws changes people’s lives
Maggie Pattison, who has worked at Henshaws for more than 30 years in Housing & Support and us as head of student wellbeing in the college, said: “There’s something about Henshaws that gets in your blood.
“Supporting someone with a disability to do something they love, like rock climbing or tandem riding, is incredible, but it’s equally lovely to see them learn to plan a meal or make a hot drink independently.”
Henshaws College student Mike Davitt, who has cerebral palsy, always wanted to be able to stand on his own and have a pint with his dad.
For Mike’s 21st birthday he stood at the bar and ordered a drink after being helped to learn to walk for the very first time while at Henshaws Specialist College.
His mum Sharron said: “Everything he’s achieved since he’s been at Henshaws has been utterly amazing to us.”
Nick Marr, Henshaws’ chief executive, said: “I am most proud of the positive impact that our dedicated staff have had on the lives of disabled people in Harrogate and Knaresborough over the past 45 years, empowering more people to live independently and be the best they can be.”
Henshaws staff & students have their own triathlon team!
Team Henshaws are well-known at the Skipton Triathlon but took part in their first ever international triathlon this year at the Colombia Threadneedle World Leeds Triathlon, a global event.
John Haithwaite, uses the facilities at the arts and crafts centre, and is one of the newest recruits to the triathlon team.
He said: “I felt a bit nervous at first, but it was fun!I feel good on the bike now and I’ve made new friends in the team. I want to be the fastest on the bike in this triathlon!”
Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough was once a zoo
The Arts and Crafts Centre was built on the site of the old Knaresborough zoo and animals continue to inspire a lot of the artwork produced on site.
The Arts and Crafts Centre first opened to the general public on April 25, 1999 after receiving a £1.8m grant from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England.
Every week, the centre support over 150 art makers aged from 17 to 80-year-old with a wide range of disabilities and complex needs.
The Arts and Crafts Centre involving students, staff and the local community with facilities for visitors including a café, exhibition gallery and shop.
It hosts monthly live gigs with local rock bands and singer-songwriters under the title Friday Night Mix and is a major venue for the whole town during Knaresborough’s annual feva arts festival.
Helping Henshaws’ students into work
Last year 40% of Henshaws graduates progressed to work- based activity .
Among the services Henshaws offers are:
Accommodations for blind and partially sighted persons in need of residential care.
Employment for blind and partially sighted persons.
Education for blind and partially sighted young persons.
Vocational training for blind and partially sighted persons.
Henshaws relies on public support
Henshaws is dependent on financial support from local individuals and organisations and is always very grateful to receive it.
Henshaws fundraising team recently visited Harrogate law firm Raworths with one of their students to receive a donation.
In 1993 Betty’s and Taylors of Harrogate were particularly generous, raising £16,000 for Henshaws.
Henshaws now has its own awards
As well as Henshaws’ student graduation ceremony each year, this year saw the launch of the Henshaws awards celebrating outstanding achievement.
The centre piece was the Gillian Lawrence award which went this year to Matthew Briggs who had displayed incredible determination to overcome a lifechanging illness and operation which he did and is now back at Henshaws.