The great-great grandson of literary great Charles Dickens will be performing next month at a new community centre which opened on Friday.
Mayor of Melton, Councillor Malise Graham, and council chief executive, Edd de Coverly, cut the ribbon to officially declare the Hope Centre open.
The 147-year-old former Baptist Chapel on Nottingham Street has been transformed by Melton Vineyard Church to provide a building which will give emotiomal and social support to families, couples and individuals in need.
But it will also act as a hub for community activities, ranging from a parent and toddler club to a Lego Club, and an entertainment venue for acts such as Gerald Dickens, who will perform his own adaptation of A Christmas Carol, penned by his famous ancestor, by playing over 30 characters on the evening of December 20.
Specially-invited guests and partners attended the grand opening of the centre with members of the public attending on Saturday to take tours of the building.
The front part is open for community use and rooms are also provided for the ‘breathing space’ service, which allows people talk to trained listeners about issues which concern them.
Upstairs is the new HQ for the church and an area called The Loft, where families events and activities will be held.
The rear of the building is still being renovated and will eventually be used at the church’s Storehouse food and clothes service, in an area more than three times that available at its current location at The Fox in Leicester Street.
Senior pastor Neal Swettenham told guests at Friday’s launch: “This building is somewhere people can receive a welcome, support and enouragement.
“We want to make a difference for people in the community, regardless of their faith background, age or gender.”
Phil Johnson, co-ordinator of Storehouse, which will relocate to the Hope Centre next year thanks to a £55,000 Lottery grant, explained that the service helps people who are in food poverty and provides a safe place for individuals to meet and talk with others as well as getting advice on which agencies can help them further.
“When the service moves to the Hope Centre there will be the opportunity for those who are genuinely homeless to get a hot shower and for them to wash their clothes as well as enjoy a hot meal,” he said.
Individuals for the ‘breathing space’ service are referred by staff at the town’s Latham House medical practice.
Organiser Joan Carter told the launch event: “This service was previously run from four different locations but now we do it all at the centre.
“We currently have 16 trained listeners.
“These are not counsellors but are people who can help with depression, stress, bereavement and loss and offer emotional support and cope strategies.”
Go online at www.meltonvineyard.org.uk or call 01664 511021 to find out more about activities and events at the centre.