The Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA) elected officers for the coming year at a well-attended annual general meeting on 13 December. Community development co-ordinator Trisha Bennett and funding and finance officer Mo McSevney also explained in detail what the WCDA does and how it has evolved throughout 2017.
The WCDA’s small grants progamme is both underspent and underadvertised, said funding and finance officer Mo McSevney. She explained that there had been nobody delivering the programme for most of the year, although four or five groups were currently making applications.
“The organisations who have been making applications were not the ones intended in the plan,” she said. “We were looking for first time applicants to help build their organisation. The people who’ve been applying were solid charities with track records of successful funding bids, people applying for financial gain, and companies talking about commercial benefit, and that’s not what this fund is about.”
She added that the purpose of the fund didn’t seem to have got through to applicants and that it would be her job in the coming year to improve the situation.
Trisha Bennett explained that although a lot of Big Local money has been earmarked for Whitley, it doesn’t belong to the WCDA, who have to bid for it to support sustainable projects.
“Part of the reason for taking on the Social Club and Café was its sustainability in the longer period,” she said. “This isn’t one of these quick flash-in-the-pans we so often have in this area; we haven’t parachuted people in who are going to make us all better in a year or two, and then go away. This is about local residents working for local people. People want to be part of the solution in their own community.”
“When we started here we had no clear identifiable presence inside Whitley,” said Mo McSevney. “Now, people will walk through the door, not to seek a specific activity or event, but to seek advice, advocacy and company. So we have made ourselves, through the club and café, a presence in Whitley again.”
“A local resident told me that over the last couple of years, this has become a community centre again for the first time in thirty years,” said Trisha Bennett. “It’s a place for refuge, support, company and the opportunity to let off steam.”
“The WCDA is not a service deliverer per se, but a community development organisation,” said Trisha Bennett. “We’re here to facilitate and empower; we’re not here to do things for people.”
“We are about Whitley,” she continued. “We’ll work with partners from other parts of town, but only if they do a significant amount of work in Whitley. The impact has to be in Whitley; that’s the funding bottom line.”
Ian Holt, a WCDA trustee and representative of the club and café, was elected the new WCDA chair. Imke Wilson stood down as chair after three years and was elected vice-chair, and the former vice-chair, Derek Chapman, was elected treasurer.
Trustee meetings take place at 6pm every second Wednesday of the month at the Whitley Social Club and Café on Northumberland Avenue. The next one will be on 10 January 2018. The next WCDA AGM will be in December 2018.