Three parents with nowhere to send their kids to play kickstart their own change in job and lifestyle opportunities for community in Seacroft
Two years ago a few parents in Seacroft who were cut off from groups and activities for their children decided to start their own.
A play session for toddlers has since turned into a thriving community group that caters for babies to pensioners and has taken on its first paid employee.
Even lockdown hasn't stopped Seacroft Community On Top (S.C.O.T) in its tracks as what is now one of its most popular sessions was started as a result of the pandemic.
As lockdown restrictions start to be lifted and the group can plan for the remainder of 2021, S.C.O.T has used its own resources and togetherness to find a solution to a problem that was affecting vast sections of the local community.
Stacey Hubbard is one of the founders and said what had started as a few volunteer parents getting together had turned into a valuable asset for Seacroft - particularly the south end of the suburb.
She said: "There were a few of us who went to a parent/teacher association meeting and decided there was nothing down the end that we live in and we wanted to start a group. We went through the council process and went to meeting after meeting so we could get a base so more people wanted to come. That is how it formed, there were three of us wanting to make a difference down here.
"Initially, we didn't expect it to thrive as it was but once we opened two groups we thought this is definitely something that was needed."
The first group, held at the Denis Healey Centre, was a Stay and Play for young children and a cafe for older people. She reels off the (pre-COVID) diary which starts with Stay and Play and the cafe on a Monday and bootcamp. Tuesday sees the mens and gardening groups, family bingo is held on Wednesday, bootcamp is Thursday and Saturday is S.C.O.Ts football and youth club.
She said: "When we were attending PTAs, we found a lot of families don't have transport or the money to get a bus, it was too far to walk to other things with kids. We knew we were working with families with six kids and two adults and they could not afford £5 per day per child. It had to be something they could afford and we could afford to continue to do. It is not too bad for a family that has one child but for a family that has six kids, it does add up. We had to make sure everything we did ticked every box that we set out to."
And it must have done as demand for groups and activities grew.
During lockdown S.C.O.T became part of Seacroft Community Hub, which fronted a staged effort to keep in touch with vulnerable people and deliver food parcels, and started a bootcamp class which could be done socially distanced and outside - giving parents a break and time for themselves.
As lockdown restrictions ease, the community cafe will reopen and so will a members' gym. In addition S.C.O.T is running groups that are becoming self-sustainable financially with monies now being put towards future groups and projects.
It is also creating skills and jobs opportunities for people within a community that has high rates of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance and Universal Credit compared to equivalent figures for the rest of Leeds and England. Volunteers working in the gym will be working towards a qualification and like-wise, cafe workers will be required to obtain food hygiene certificates which can lead to other opportunities. A member of staff to co-ordinate the S.C.O.T operation has been employed too.
Ms Hubbard added: "When lockdown finishes we want to open that gym and get the cafe up and running for everybody to come in and we have other things in the pipeline waiting to get the go-ahead. There is still so much to be done.
"We did it as volunteers from the get go because we had children that needed something to do as well as the community. It has been good to us and we have been able to employ our first person which is another good outcome and gets the stats down on unemployment. It is only one person right now but we know the opportunity is there in the long run."
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