23 March 2017
Residents of Bailiffgate, our residential home for adults with learning disabilities in Alnwick, have been rushed off their feet this week, as their Activities Co-ordinator, Gwen Simms, ensured there was no time for slacking!
First, there was a trip into Newcastle for a picnic lunch before visiting the Hancock Museum. Everyone was impressed by the variety of animals on display, but for resident, Kate, it was the huge collection of exotic butterflies that really made her day. Afterwards, the weather was fine enough to sit in the sun with ice creams.
The next day, though, it was time to get down to some serious gardening – planting up all the home's hanging baskets for what everyone is hoping will be a spectacular spring show.
Finally, Gwen got together everything needed for a special Easter arts and crafts session. So there will be lots of hand-made greetings cards and painted eggs to hand out to families and friends in a couple of weeks.
20 March 2017
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Cuthbert, the patron saint of our Diocese and namesake of our charity.
Born in 634AD, as a boy Cuthbert used to tend sheep on the mountain sides near the monastery of Melrose in modern day Scotland. In 651AD, whilst watching his sheep, he saw a vision of St Aidan being carried to heaven by angels and this inspired him to become a monk.
He became prior at Lindisfarne where he spent much of his time evangelizing the local people, spreading the word of the gospel to all.
St Cuthbert first sought peace and solitude in the Inner Farne Island in 676AD, where he would spend long periods of time praying and making rosary beads from fossil crinoids. Crinoids are still washed up on local beaches today and are still known as Cuthbert's beads.
In 684AD, Cuthbert was called to become the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. He travelled throughout the North of England helping people and was known as a saint and miracle worker in his own lifetime. However, the pull of the Inner Farne Island was too strong and Cuthbert finally returned, spending the rest of his life in solitude and prayer.
Cuthbert died on the island on 20 March 687AD and his body was buried at the Lindisfarne Monastery. His tomb became the site of many miracles and the Lindisfarne Gospels were written in his honour.
Before his death, Cuthbert had expressed his wish that if the monks were ever forced out of the monastery they would take his remains, so with the threat of the Danes invading, the monks fled Lindisfarne and took Cuthbert's remains with them.
For over 200 years the monks and his remains wandered around the North of England until they finally settled in Durham and began to build Durham Cathedral to house Cuthbert's remains. Thousands of people still make the pilgrimage to Durham Cathedral each year to visit the remains of St Cuthbert.
17 March 2017
Industrious preparations have been taking place behind the scenes to make sure our service users get the most out of St Patrick's Day.
Our Alan Shearer Activity Centre started the ball rolling by baking some delicious soda bread, which they then enjoyed with some good Irish butter. Afterwards, everyone really enjoyed delving into the dressing up box and having a giggle as they tried out the leprechaun look, wearing the symbolic tall green hat and beard.
Residents at our St Catherine's Nursing Home took part in a themed taster session, sampling soda bread and traditional Irish barmbrack fruit bread.
And in Ashington, our imaginative clients at Parkhead Resource Centre for adults with learning disabilities made their own 'Guinness' which consisted of blackcurrant juice topped with a frothy head of whipped cream.
With more plans afoot around our services, it looks like St Patrick's Day is shaping up to be quite a memorable event.
14 March 2017
Channel 4 may still be working on their new series of Bake Off, but members of our Parkhead Resource Centre for adults with learning disabilities showed how quickly they could arrange their own competition this week.
When everyone decided, quite spontaneously, to hold a “Cake Off”, ingredients were soon assembled and members organised into two competing teams, led by support workers Christina Richards and Jonathan Bell.
Team JB made a chocolate sponge cake covered in glitter and butter cream, while team CR made caramel sponge with chocolate caramel icing, topped with salted caramel chunks.
Support worker, Simon Cochrane (dubbed rather unkindly ‘Fats Hollywood' ) was appointed to award the teams marks out of ten for presentation and taste.
Team CR scored 5/10 for presentation and 10/10 for their salted caramel deliciousness! Team JB received 7/10 for presentation and 8/10 for taste for their chocolate cake – though they were lucky not to be disqualified for turning off team CR's oven and hiding their ingredients!
In the end, both teams scored 15/20 – because, as Christina said, “Everyone is a winner at Parkhead!”
6 March 2017
Members of our Parkhead Resource Centre in Ashington, which provides a specialist service for adults with learning disabilities, arranged something a little bit special to mark National Book Day.
When they spotted on the local news how schools were encouraging pupils to dress up as characters from their favourite books, staff and regular Parkhead members got together to join in with the fun, dressing up their entire centre for a themed party.
Senior Support Worker, Hannah Chapple, said, "We chose Alice in Wonderland for our theme and some of our regulars read parts of the story, then we watched extracts from the movie. One of our members, Ellen, crafted some beautifully eccentric centrepieces and couldn't wait to see them on display. Everyone agreed that our decorations in the dining room were amazing!"
To round off their special event, they took part in a 'Mad Hatter's Quiz' and thoroughly enjoyed their themed buffet which included bottles of cloudy lemonade labelled 'Drink Me' and teeny bottles of sherbet labelled 'Eat Me'.
"It was a great way to really delve into the Alice in Wonderland book and everyone had a brilliant time," added Hannah."
1 March 2017
Did you make pancakes yesterday and if so, do you know why?
In the past, Shrove Tuesday was your last chance to enjoy yourself before the start of Lent - and forty days of fasting. Families would clear out their cupboards and eat things like eggs, milk and sugar so they wouldn't be tempted by them. Many parts of the world hold Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) festivals for the same reason.
The tradition of mixing them up for pancakes is thought to come from a pagan ritual, but others say it is a Christian tradition - with the ingredients representing four pillars of the faith: eggs for creation, flour sustenance or the staff of life, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity.
Whatever the explanation, pancakes were top of the menu at two of our services yesterday. Residents of our St Catherine's Nursing Home certainly enjoyed the pancakes the home's kitchen staff made for them. Served with sugar and lemon, maple syrup or chocolate spread, they were a flipping lovely alternative to biscuits with afternoon tea!
Meanwhile at our Alan Shearer Centre, Recreation Assistant, Jan Rootham, helped members to make their own (and even to toss some successfully) before they got down to work on their new spring-themed mural for the centre.
1 March 2017
Have you noticed anyone with ash on their forehead today? Maybe you've been to Mass yourself to get your ashes?
To mark the start of Lent both of our nursing homes, St Catherine's in Newcastle and Holy Cross in Sunderland, held the traditional Ash Wednesday service in their chapels, giving residents the opportunity to receive their ashes.
The ashes are actually produced by burning the palm crosses made for Palm Sunday the previous year and the cross on the foreheads of churchgoers symbolises repentance for sin.
Mainly a Catholic feast, Lent and Ash Wednesday are also celebrated by a number of Protestant denominations. St Catherine's and Holy Cross, though founded in the Catholic faith, are home to people of all denominations and none, so everyone was welcome at the Masses.
As well as the familiar idea of “giving something up for Lent”, many people choose this time to do something more positive, such as volunteering for a charity. St Cuthberts Care is always happy to hear from anyone who is interested in giving some of their time to help with our work. If you would like to find out about our volunteering opportunities, please contact our Volunteer Co-ordinator, Nicola Milne on 0191 228 0111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
24 February 2017
Who could resist diving into activities involving melted chocolate and tempting trimmings? Working with chocolate is one our Alan Shearer Activity Centre's most popular events and this year was no exception.
Quite a crowd gathered at our Activity Centre to join in with our special Chocolate Treat Day. Everyone grabbed the chance to make their own delicious lollies and each one was decorated with their own unique design using a variety of coatings and toppings.
Starting off by hand crafting the lollies from vanilla sponge cake, they were then attached to a lolly stick and dipped in melted white or milk chocolate before the finishing touches were added using a choice of coloured icing, colourful sprinkles, chocolate drops or marshmallows.
Heather McLaren, one of the Centre's Recreation Assistants said, "The lollies were incredible works of art. We made them all freehand – no moulds were allowed – and when they were finished, they looked irresistible. I'm not sure many of them lasted until our guests got home!"
22 February 2017
Our St Catherine's Nursing Home is now home sweet home to some very well behaved puppies.
The pups, each in their own basket, are more than just cuddly toys for our residents. The lifelike pets “breathe” like real sleeping puppies and were added to the home's collection of sensory and tactile items for the list of benefits they can offer to our residents. It has been known for some time now that stroking a soft, furry pet can have positive physical and emotional effects and even a realistic substitute can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Family Liaison Manager for our nursing homes, Joanne Bulford, said the pups were an instant hit.
“We have a Spaniel, a Beagle and a Black Labrador,” said Joanne. “Some of our residents have become very attached to them and they've produced lots of smiles and evoked memories of their own pets from the past.
Choosing their names has become quite a talking point, too, which has been an added bonus.”
20 February 2017
The fantastic hydrotherapy pool at our Alan Shearer Activity Centre has scooped a top national award for quality design and innovation.
Our specialist pool, which was officially opened by our charity Patron, Alan Shearer last autumn after extensive refurbishment, has received the gold award in the 'Specialist Requirement Pool of the Year' category at the SPATA British Pool and Hot Tub Awards.
Disabled people of all ages are able to enjoy the pool's therapeutic benefits and soak up the luxurious, spa-like surroundings free of charge. Features include interactive sensory lighting and music, muscle-strengthening water jets and soothing Jacuzzi-style bubble zones, which all help to improve the comfort and mobility of the thousands of disabled people who use it.
Alan Shearer Centre Manager, Amanda Head, said, "This is brilliant news! We always wanted the hydro pool to offer our disabled members a five-star experience and now it's official."
The entire refurbishment was funded by the Alan Shearer Foundation - the dedicated fundraising arm for the Centre.
Hearing of the award, Alan Shearer said, "It's fantastic that my Foundation has been able to fund the new hydro pool and that it's now gone on to win this award."
The competition entry was submitted by Sunderland-based Whitewaters Limited, who carried out the refurbishment work.
Mick Guthrie from Whitewaters added, "We are delighted to win a gold award this year at the British Pool and Hot Tub Awards. To be acknowledged by our industry peers is a tremendous achievement for us and we look forward to continuing our close working relationship with St Cuthberts Care."
16 February 2017
Two of our fostered young people have played a key role in the recruitment and selection of a new member of staff for our Fostering North East team.
The two girls, aged 16 and 18, helped to devise the interview questions for each candidate before taking part in the interviews themselves, supported by a member of staff from our fostering team.
After the final interview, the girls fed back their structured comments which will carry significant weight in helping staff to make the final decision.
Both girls agreed that they valued their involvement in the decision making process and that taking part in the interviews had helped to boost their confidence.
"It's important that our fostered children and young people are able to have an input into the appointment of our staff," said Fostering North East Operations Manager, Joann Gibson. "Obviously, our staff work very closely with both our carers and the young people placed with them, so their views and contributions to the recruitment process are essential.
"Our small team prides itself on the friendly, personal service we are able to give to our carers and young people and this is just one example of the importance we place on working together."
Fostering North East is always looking for new foster carers from around the region. If you're interested in fostering or would like to know more about the role of a foster carer, please contact Joann on 0191 2280111, email: email@example.com or visit our website: www.fosteringnortheast.org.uk
15 February 2017
Everyone loves an excuse to have a good time and what better reason to spread a bit of love and goodwill than Valentine's Day?
A number of our services planned Valentine parties and activities in the lead up to 14 February and for the day itself.
Our Alan Shearer Activity Centre held their disco a few days early so that residents from our home for adults with learning disabilities in Alnwick could make a special trip down to Newcastle. They partied with centre members, adults from the Alan Shearer Centre's own residential home and Short Break Centre guests.
Our Parkhead Resource Centre in Ashington started their partying early on Valentine's Day, with a special Rock'n'Roll morning at the local YMCA. Elvis impersonator, Mike Memphis, wowed the crowd before posing for photos with centre members.
In our St Catherine's nursing home, the day was a little more relaxed. There were shortbread hearts waiting to have names piped onto them with icing sugar, then a special game of bingo using Valentine themed pictures instead of numbers. Winners could choose either chocolates or toiletries as prizes and, as a consolation for anyone who didn't win, there were plenty of cream cakes for tea.
14 February 2017
Members of our Fostering North East team will be at Holy Cross Nursing Home in Sunderland this Thursday, February 16, so if you've ever thought about fostering, why not pop along for a friendly chat.
The team are looking for new foster carers in the Sunderland area and surrounding region and anyone who is interested in fostering will be more than welcome to drop in to share a coffee and find out more.
Information packs will be available to take away and the informal event also offers the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about becoming a foster carer.
"Our regular events around the region are just the first step in the journey to be a foster carer," said Fostering North East Manager, Sarah Croft. "If you've ever thought about fostering, it's an ideal opportunity to find out a bit more without any obligation – although we do hope you'll join our foster carer family."
No appointments are necessary, just call into Holy Cross Nursing Home, Ettrick Grove, Sunderland, SR4 8QA at any time between 10am and 2pm.
If you would like more information on fostering with Fostering North East but aren't able to attend this event, please don't hesitate to get in touch with Sarah or the team's Operations Manager, Joann Gibson on 0191 2280111 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org An enquiry form and further information is also available on our website: www.fosteringnortheast.org.uk
8 February 2017
Members of our Alan Shearer Centre have been looking forward to spring by creating a new mural to replace their last Newcastle-themed picture.
Regulars at the Live and Learn skills sessions for adults with learning disabilities decided to create a huge, colourful peacock to really brighten up their arts and crafts room.
Over a couple of weeks, various members have practically emptied the supplies cupboard of card, paint, tissue paper and glitter to make their stunning creation.
Recreation Assistant, Heather McLaren, said, “Everyone chose a different method of colouring and our peacock is looking fab! We especially enjoyed making the feathers for his tail fan.”
Live and Learn craft sessions are held on Tuesdays from 11am till 1pm, while Wednesday and Thursday 1pm to 3pm are dedicated cooking slots. You can find out more by calling the Activity Centre reception on 0191 267 8118.
3 February 2017
Real life heroes will be firmly in the spotlight with our fun, free session for disabled people of all ages at the Alan Shearer Activity Centre this Saturday, 4 February from 12 noon to 2pm.
Our 'Who do you want to be?' session lets you choose your favourite real life hero, then you can colour and cut out their special outfit to dress our ready-made card figures as a policeman, nurse or fireman - or invent your own real life champion.
The session is free for our members and everything is provided, including support from our talented recreation assistants, so all you have to do is come along and enjoy the fun. Don't forget to book your place first by giving us a ring on 0191 2678118.
31 January 2017
The arrival of the Year of the Rooster found many of our service users showcasing their talents to mark this year's Chinese New Year celebrations.
Dozens of members turned up at our Alan Shearer Activity Centre to join in a special Chinese New Year themed arts and crafts session. Magically, an intriguing assortment of odds and ends were cut and coloured, glued and pinned to make some pretty fearsome dragon staffs and everyone was thrilled to be able to take one home with them.
Meanwhile, staff and clients at our Parkhead Resource Centre in Ashington for adults with learning disabilities pulled out all the stops to lay on a feast to welcome Chinese New Year. Everyday lunch was replaced with chicken and sweetcorn soup followed by tasty stir fry before three very talented ladies – Claire, Christine and Sharon - proudly served their hand-made fortune cookies
"Our Centre looked incredible!" said Parkhead Manager, Claire Graham, "Everyone helped to make all the red and gold decorations and there was something wonderful hanging from every available space! We had Chinese music and made dragon masks, but I think the fortune cookies may have stolen the show. We couldn't wait to open one to see what the future holds."
27 January 2017
It's all eyes on the garden this weekend at our St Catherine's nursing home in Newcastle, when residents join in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.
The birdwatch, between 28 and 30 January, helps build a picture of garden wildlife across the UK and, last year, more than half a million people took part.
The home, which boasts not only a large sheltered garden with trees, shrubs and raised beds, but also a small courtyard with potted plants and shrubs, attracts a variety of birds. Staff and residents always keep the bird feeders well stocked, but they have made some extra treats especially for this weekend.
Claire Graham, manager of our Parkhead Resource Centre for adults with learning disabilities in Ashington, popped in to lend a hand, stringing peanuts onto strips of ribbon. The birds will have to do a little work to open the shells to get to the nuts, but that will give everyone more time to enjoy watching them.
26 January 2017
There's been a lot of tartan on show across our services to mark this year's Burns Day.
Regulars at the Alan Shearer Centre's Live and Learn skills sessions for adults with learning disabilities, created Scottish themed decorations for the day with pictures of pipers and flags – while recreation assistant, Jan Rootham, spurred them on with a few Burns poems, which she read in her best Scots accent.
Meanwhile adults with learning disabilities attending our Parkhead Resource Centre in Ashington, (which, after all, is only a stone's throw from Scotland) enjoyed Scotch Broth with crusty bread, followed by haggis and rounded off their meal with some traditional shortbread, washed down with Irn Bru.
They also made themselves some Scottish tablet, which is rather like fudge but more crumbly, and had their photos taken wearing Tam o' Shanters.
The prize for celebrating in style though, must go to the residents of our St Catherine's nursing home in Newcastle.
After the traditional address to the haggis and the Selkirk Grace, they enjoyed haggis, neeps and tatties followed by shortbread with a wee nip of Scots whisky and rounded it off with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
24 January 2017
Have you ever thought about fostering, but didn't know where to start? Pop along for a chat with our friendly fostering team this Friday, January 27 at their stand in Newcastle's Grainger Market.
Members of Fostering North East will be in the Grainger Market arcade space this Friday between 10am and 3pm and would love to meet anyone who would like to foster or who would simply like to know more about what's involved.
Fostering North East Operations Manager, Joann Gibson said, "We need foster carers from all over the region, so even if you're just popping into Newcastle to shop, it's worth visiting us for a chat.
"We understand that making the decision to foster takes time, so there isn't any pressure to commit to anything on the day”, added Joann. “We have plenty of information you can take away and the event also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions, then you can contact us again in your own time if you decide to go ahead. It's all very relaxed, but it could be the first step you take towards making a huge difference to a child's life."
Fostering North East's small, friendly team offers its foster carers excellent allowances, full training and 24 hour support. If you would like to know more, but can't make it along to the Newcastle event, give Joann a ring on 0191 228 0111, email email@example.com or enquire via the Fostering North East website at www.fosteringnortheast.org.uk
20 January 2017
Cake, candles and a chorus of 'happy birthday' were all part of a surprise 90th birthday tea party arranged for one of our nursing home residents.
Nonagenarian, Pat, who lives in our St Catherine's Nursing Home in Newcastle, was delighted with all the cards and gifts she received from relatives, friends and staff and was especially taken with a huge birthday balloon emblazoned with the number '90'.
"Pat loved the balloon, but said she didn't feel she was 90," said Operations Manager, Lesley Oliver. "She insisted we had put the wrong age on it and told us she felt more like 25!"
Staff, carers, managers and fellow residents all gathered in the home's spacious lounge to join in with the celebration tea and sang 'happy birthday' while Pat blew out the candles on her cake. Then it was treats for everyone as the delicious cake was shared out with a well-deserved cuppa.
19 January 2017
Cheryl and Sarah, from our Alnwick residential home for adults with learning disabilities, may not be horse whisperers, but their fortnightly riding lessons certainly seem to encourage a lot of chat.
Activities Co-ordinator, Gwen Simms, who organises the trips to Swinhoe Riding School in Belford, says, “The horse riding for Cheryl has really boosted her confidence and self-esteem. When she is out in the community she is very reserved and doesn't like talking to people, but she talks to her instructor throughout her lesson.”
Sarah is also finding the lessons beneficial and has developed a real affection for the horses.
“She is always smiling when she rides past me,” says Gwen, “and when she gets in the car she says ‘Gwen, I have really enjoyed that - I'm going to tell my mam'.”
As well as the Swinhoe Riding School, some of our residents also enjoy visiting the local Pegasus Centre in Morpeth, which is run by the Riding for the Disabled Association. Whichever school they choose, everyone is benefitting from that “animal magnetism”.
17 January 2017
An opportunity to make someone smile is never missed at our Alan Shearer Short Break Centre – even the minutes waiting for a lift to school in the morning can be packed with fun and adventure.
While regular guest, Adam, waited for his usual ride to school, Short Break Manager, Jackie Dunn, wasted no time in packing in some extra entertainment by reading a few of his favourite stories.
Adam, who is visually impaired, was thrilled to hear the story of 'Say please, little bear' and 'Don't kick up a fuss, Gus!' brought to life by Jackie as she took on the roles of the storybook characters.
"I really don't know who enjoyed the stories more," said Jackie. "I really lose myself in playing the different parts and giving each one a different voice. Adam's always full of smiles when I read and he thinks it's a great way to start the day."
11 January 2017
Renowned travel writer, Bill Bryson, once said “What is it about maps? I could look at them all day”. Two members of our Parkhead Resource Centre in Ashington certainly agree. They have caught the travel bug - and are hoping to pass it on to their friends.
Jon Perry and John Carlin are founder members of the centre's new geography club and enjoy pouring over maps and doing projects on different locations that interest them: some, places they have been on holiday and others that they would love to visit given the chance.
Parkhead staff, including Jonathan Bell (pictured with Jon and John), are helping them organise their research by setting up an eight week timetable to follow. As well as learning about the geography of their chosen cities, they will also be studying a little of the local languages and cuisine.
Their new club is hoping to attract more members and, whilst Bali or Rio may be a bit ambitious, they do plan to arrange trips to various places of interest around our region.
In the meantime, they will be using their research to produce artwork to display around the centre.
10 January 2017
Specialist sensory equipment available at our Alan Shearer Short Break Centre is helping one of our regular guests gain the confidence to continue to expand his horizons.
12-year-old year old Taylor has a disability which makes it difficult for him to venture out of his room to socialise or join in with activities, but a favourite sensory unit and the patient support of our staff is helping to deliver great results.
Early each morning during his visits, and still dressed in PJs, Taylor makes a bee line for the sensory unit where he can press the buttons to change the panel's lighting patterns and choose his favourite musical sounds.
"Because the equipment is mobile, we can gradually increase the distance Taylor has to move to use it," said Short Break Manager, Jackie Dunn. "It's now sitting in the corridor outside of Taylor's room, but he doesn't seem to notice that in his excitement to get to it to play. This is a massive achievement for Taylor and we're over the moon at his progress."
6 January 2017
We're one week into the new year now, so how are your resolutions holding up?
A good way to help keep those promises you made to yourself is to write them all down so you can see them every day and, more importantly, tick them off as you achieve them.
If you come along to this Saturday's craft session at the Alan Shearer Centre, you can join a lot of other people with good intentions for the year ahead and create your own decorative wish list. Hang it up or pin it to the fridge and tick off those goals each month!
The session starts at 12 noon and, as usual, it's completely free.
Skydiving may be a bit ambitious for some, but what about adding some fundraising or volunteering to your list for 2017 and help spread a little happiness this year?
We have our own list for 2017 – our list of upcoming activities at the Alan Shearer Centre, which we keep updated so you can download it and check what's on at any time.
4 January 2017
Christmas may be over, but a post-festive gift brought precious memories flooding back for our St Catherine's Nursing Home resident, Pat Walker, when the special delivery arrived from her daughter, Sue.
The beautifully framed collection of four black and white photos shows off some of Pat's close relatives and each picture was taken during an era Pat remembers well.
Shortly after the gift arrived, Family Liaison Manager, Joanne Bulford spent time looking at the photos with Pat and chatting about the people she clearly remembered so fondly.
"As soon as I brought the framed photos along for Pat her face lit up and she told me each person's name," said Joanne. "It's a fantastic way to keep Pat's memories alive and clearly makes her very happy."
The pictures are now displayed on the wall in Pat's room where she can visit her memories at any time of the day or night.