Manchester centre saved by fundraiser set to reopen

The Nicky Alliance will be back next month after a crowdfunding campaign raised £500k


Manchester’s Nicky Alliance Centre is set to reopen in May, ten months after being saved from closure by a 36-hour community crowdfunder which raised £500,000.

Chief executive Michelle Wiseman said the hiatus resulting from pandemic restrictions had provided an opportunity to refurbish the premises, using the bulk of around £50,000 secured in grants — the £500k donated in the fundraiser is ring-fenced.

There have been improvements to the dining room and toilets with the additional aim of enhancing Covid safety. Payments for activities and purchases from its convenience store will be contactless.

The target date for reopening is May 19, the day after Shavuot. Ms Wiseman anticipated initially capping attendances at 20 for the Monday-Thursday get-togethers to allow for social distancing.

Close to 50 staff and volunteers will undergo weekly Covid tests facilitated through Manchester City Council.

Heartened by the response to the emergency appeal — “people didn’t want to lose us” — she hoped the refurbished building would also attract interest for commercial hire on evenings and Sundays.

Over the past year, the centre has maintained contact with its members, the majority of whom are in their 80s and 90s, having received funding for iPads and had laptops donated. A weekly WhatsApp quiz has proved popular and the centre has also ramped up its meals service, sending out 860 over Pesach alone.

But there had been many anxious calls from users asking when in-person activities would resume.

“People just can’t wait to come out,” Ms Wiseman said. “Isolation and loneliness is the very opposite of what we are about.” But the centre’s reopening was equally vital to those who cared for members, offering some welcome respite. “It’s the creaking gate syndrome. Sometimes it’s the carer who suffers the most.”

For her own part, she had “missed members so much. Everyone who comes in says there’s such a wonderful atmosphere. It’s like a large family. Chatting to them by phone is good but it’s not the same.”

The vaccine had proved “a game-changer. It is giving people the confidence to come back, not just the members but staff and volunteers.”

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