Carol Kerr

Meet the Team – Donna Smith, Facilities Manager

Actes’ Facilities Manager Donna Smith is true reflection of the organisation’s commitment to helping people to fulfil their potential, having progressed from an administrative role to Facilities Manager over the course of the past 15 years.

Donna is one the organisation’s most long-serving members of staff having started life with West Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Trust (as Actes was formerly known) in 2003 aged 19.

With a Middlesbrough Council Business Admin apprenticeship under her belt, Donna’s first role as Neighbourhood Trust Development Officer saw her putting her admin experience into practice by providing support to the Neighbourhood Manager at People’s Panels and Resident Groups, as well as organising various community events including family fun days.

Donna says: “The role was very community orientated and really brought me out of my shell. It helped me to build relationships with members of the local community and various stakeholders that are really valuable to this day in my role as facilities manager.”

In 2007 Donna moved into the role of PA to the Chief Executive/ Office Manager and remained in the role during the organisation’s transition from WMNT to Actes.  In 2011 and with Actes’ current Chief Executive Sandra Phillips now in post, Donna was given the chance to really make her mark with a secondment to set-up and kit-out the organisation’s newly-built state-of-the-art venue, the Acklam Green Centre. This varied role involved managing everything from decorating and furnishing the centre’s meeting and conference rooms to setting up all the relevant policies and procedures including those relating to Health and Safety.

Donna says: “This was a completely new venture for Actes and I was entrusted to develop Acklam Green Centre from a shell into a fully functioning centre. This involved everything from putting in place policies around fire safety, health and safety and security measures for the building as well as recruiting a catering company to man the on-site café which we subsequently decided to manage in-house; it was quite a challenge but one I really enjoyed.”

The secondment led to Donna’s appointment as Centre Manager at Acklam Green Centre.  Commenting on the initial period after the centre’s launch, she said: “In the early days it was difficult to predict how things would evolve, however we quickly started to attract bookings from public, private and third sector organisations during the daytime and people started booking parties and running activities from here on evenings and at weekends, which reflected our aims to provide a facility which the local community could make use of, while we provided a centre management service. This trend in bookings has continued to this day, however we are also experiencing a surge in business orientated bookings on an evening which is really encouraging to see.”

Donna took a career break in 2014 to have son Elijah and upon her return from maternity leave later that year she was asked to take on the broader role of facilities manager for Actes.  In addition to running the Acklam Green Centre, the promotion involved having overall responsibility for the organisation’s other business and community centre, the Resource Centre in Meath Street, as well as its housing stock.

Today Donna manages a team of 15 members of staff who work between the two facilities, including Acklam Green Centre’s café and in-house catering facility, Café Connect.  She also has overall responsibility for driving business at the two centres, taking on-board customer feedback to improve customer-service, and it is this aspect of the role that continues to offer Donna the most job satisfaction today.

She says: “The most satisfying part of my role is the interaction with customers and hearing positive feedback about the service they’ve received.”

During Donna’s time with Actes she’s had the opportunity to undertake a substantial amount of training and development, achieving an NVQ Level 4 in Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) to support her early community work, an NVQ Level 3 in Team Leading, an NVQ Level 3 in Customer Service and an NVQ Level 5 in Management and Leadership. Additional courses that add to her CV include First Aid and Equality and Diversity.

Donna says: “Actes has been incredibly supportive in terms of my personal development, giving me the chance to gain qualifications that have allowed me to continue to improve in my role, however the most significant change I’ve experienced during my time with Actes has been the increase in my self-confidence having started out as a shy 19-year-old.”

In addition to managing her busy and varied role as Facilities Manager Donna is mum to four-year old son Elijah.

For further information about the Acklam Green Centre contact 01642 811 120 or visit the website www.acklam-green-centre.com

Dementia Friendly’s summer holiday at AGC

The Summer Holiday came early to the Acklam Green Centre when it hosted another Dementia Friendly screening.  An audience of forty people living with Dementia, and their friends, family and carers, attended a film screening of the classic Cliff Richard musical following the success of two previous events. 

The screening was organised in partnership with Brian Rowcroft, business engagement lead for Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, a project that continues to develop Middlesbrough as a nationally recognised dementia friendly community. 

The screening was shown in the centre’s large conference hall to create a safe and comfortable cinema experience for those living with dementia; sound and lighting levels were adjusted to ensure the event wasn’t overwhelming for attendees. Members of the audience were also encouraged to express themselves freely during the film including talking, singing and moving about which culminated in an enthusiastic rendition of the title song.

Acklam Green Centre staff have completed dementia awareness training through the Alzheimer’s Society’s programme which is designed to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia.  The venue itself is recognised as being dementia-friendly having been assessed against the dementia friendly physical environment checklist.

Donna Smith, facilities manager at the Acklam Green Centre, said: “We were pleased to host another Dementia Friendly screening in the centre this week.  The events are proving popular and we are delighted to be able to do something specifically for those living with dementia in the local community.  We’re currently looking into further ways we can support this group by providing a comfortable environment in which to meet and interact with others.”

Ahead of the screening Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough was presented with a cheque by Councillor Denise Rooney of a donation of £5000 raised by bereavement services.

Brian Rowcroft, business engagement lead for Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, said: “I am delighted that Acklam Green Centre continues to take part in this initiative to support people living with dementia in the Middlesbrough community.

“What’s more, it was fantastic to receive a substantial donation from Middlesbrough Council’s bereavement services ahead of the event. This will go a long way towards  supporting our work to help people remain active and included members of their communities and maintain their independence for as long as possible.”

For further information about Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough visit www.dementiafriendlymiddlesbrough.co.uk or email browcroft@clevearc.com  

For further information about the Acklam Green Centre visit www.acklam-green-centre.com 

TASC celebrates 50th birthday at AGC

The Acklam Green Centre recently hosted a special 50th birthday celebration for TASC (Teesside Ability Support Centre).

TASC, which provides care, training and activities to over 100 adults with differing abilities each week, is marking its ‘Golden Jubilee’ with a series of celebrations taking place up to October.

The party, which took place in the Acklam Green Centre’s Roseberry Hall on 10th May, saw TASC staff come together with many of the organisation’s members and their carers to enjoy a disco, quiz, food and drink and presentations.

TASC, which has its main centre on Acklam Road as well as two smaller resources in Coulby Newham and Hemlington, is a regular visitor to the Acklam Green Centre having used the facility for Christmas parties and other events.

Malcolm Turley, general manager at TASC, said: “We all had a fantastic time celebrating our ‘Golden Jubilee’ at the Acklam Green Centre, which is one of a number of events we’re hosting throughout our 50th year.

“The Acklam Green Centre is an ideal venue for us as it’s close to our main centre and has as large hall ideal for hosting large numbers of people.  There are also private meeting rooms available that we can use for members’ personal care and the staff are always really friendly and go out of their way to be as helpful as possible.”

For further information about TASC visit the website www.teessidetasc.org

Centres spruce-up for spring

Both the Acklam Green Centre and Resource Centre have benefited from improvements in recent weeks to ensure customers continue to receive a warm welcome.

Café Connect in the atrium of Acklam Green Centre has had a fresh lick of paint, had its new logo put in pride of place following a branding exercise and has benefited from new menus and other finishing touches. An exterior banner has also been fitted to promote the café facility to the general-public and encourage walk-ins.

Meanwhile, the centre has had new interior signage installed reflecting the new room names – Roseberry Hall, Taylor Suite, Brownlee Suite, Stainsby Room, Oakland Room and Cambridge Room – following a competition to name them at the end of last year.

The Resource Centre reception area has also had a facelift with new display areas put in place to ensure better promotion of the centre’s facilities and activities.

Donna Smith, facilities manager, said: “We want our customers to have a positive experience when visiting the centres so have made some changes that have really made a difference. We have enhanced the café area which now shows off our fantastic new logo, and our smart new internal signage better signposts visitors around the centre and creates an identity for our first-class rooms.”

AGC tenant SCSS marks 25th anniversary

Simon Carson Sports School (SCSS), based at the Acklam Green Centre, has celebrated 25 years in business by hosting 25 school holiday courses attended by 1161 young people.

SCSS ran the day-long courses within primary schools and facilities across Tees Valley and North Yorkshire over the Easter Holiday, including at Acklam Green Centre, coinciding with the company’s ‘silver’ anniversary.  

The courses comprised of activities including football, rugby, netball, dodgeball, cricket and dance, led by SCSS’s team of fully qualified and accredited coaches.

The business was established by football and sports enthusiast Simon Carson in April 1993 and started with just an additional member of staff and a home-based office. It has grown from offering football coaching alone to a multi-sports school with 39 employees and a professional headquarters at the Whinney Banks based business and community facility. 

Over the year the business has coached a number of high-profile names including former Tottenham Hotspur footballer Michael Dawson, sprinter Richard Kilty, table tennis champion Paul Drinkhall and actor Jamie Bell. 

Simon attributes his success to “getting in at the right time” when there was little competition, combined with plenty of networking within the school community and by offering free taster sessions in the early days while he established the SCSS brand.

Speaking about how the business first originated, Simon commented: “I’d always had a keen interest in football going back to when I coached my mum’s Cub Scouts’ football team at the age of 14. I came across a contact through some scouting work I was doing who was successfully running sports schools in Norwich and saw an opportunity to repeat his success here in the North East.

“I’ve got to where I am through sheer persistence. I was in touch with around 100 schools in the first 13 weeks to get myself out there. I made a beeline for newly qualified teachers who would see the benefits of what I was doing to extend children’s access to physical activity, many of whom are now headteachers and ongoing contacts in schools today,” he added.

Five years ago SCSS moved into office space at Acklam Green Centre which has provided a professional base from which to manage the business and promote its offer to schools across the area.  The facility, which boasts football pitches and a multi-use games area, in addition to office, meeting and conference space, was also one of the host venues for the 25 anniversary courses.

Simon Carson commented: “I am delighted with the growth the Acklam Green Centre has enabled our Sports Schools to achieve over the past five years.  We benefit from access to the excellent meeting and conference rooms, sports facilities and fantastic office space, providing us with all of the facilities we need under one roof.” 

Donna Smith, facilities manager for Acklam Green Centre, said: “We are pleased to see Simon Carson Sports School celebrating 25 years in business. They have been a fantastic tenant within the Acklam Green Centre over the past five years and we are glad to have played a part in supporting their growth by providing a professional business environment from which to operate.” 

Going forward Simon plans to maintain SCSS’s position in the market and to grow not-for-profit spin-off company Game of Actual Life (GOAL), which teaches primary school children important life and financial education lessons.  Further plans to mark SCSS’s 25 years include staging a football match between the company’s 11 newest members of staff and 11 previous staff members from over the years.

For further information about Simon Carson Sports School call 07794 281398 or visit www.simoncarsonsportsschool.com

Dementia-friendly screening at AGC

The Acklam Green Centre has hosted its first Dementia Friendly film screening for people living with Dementia, and their friends, family and carers. 

A pilot dementia-friendly film screening of High Society took place in the centre’s large conference hall on Valentine’s Day for 38 people from the local community.  The event was organised in partnership with Brian Rowcroft, business engagement lead for Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, a project that continues to develop Middlesbrough as a nationally recognised dementia friendly community. 

Dementia friendly screenings enable people living with dementia and their carers to enjoy a cinema experience in a safe and comfortable environment. Screenings are enhanced to suit the needs of people living with dementia; during the showing of High Society low lights were left on inside the conference hall and people were encouraged to express themselves freely during the film. 

The Acklam Green Centre business and community centre is recognised as a dementia-friendly venue and staff from the centre have recently become Dementia Friends, having participated in the Alzheimer’s Society’s programme which is designed to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about dementia.  The screening was organised to further highlight its commitment to supporting those with the condition in the local community, and to explore whether there was an appetite for more events being held at the centre.  

Donna Smith, facilities manager at the Acklam Green Centre, said: “We were delighted to team up with Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough to host the Valentine’s Day screening of High Society. We are a community focused organisation and this was an opportunity to do something specifically for those living with dementia in the local area. Our large conference hall with its racked seating and large retractable screen ideally lends itself to this kind of event and we hope to host more events of this kind going forward.” 

Brian Rowcroft, business engagement lead for Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough, said: “I am delighted that Acklam Green Centre is taking part in this initiative to support people living with dementia to remain active and included members of their communities.” 

Edna, who attended with her husband George, commented: “What a great afternoon we had. It’s so homely and welcoming in the centre so we can’t wait to come back.  We’d love to see other activities here that we can access too such as tea-dances.” 

For further information about Dementia Friendly Middlesbrough visit www.dementiafriendlymiddlesbrough.co.uk or email browcroft@clevearc.com  

For further information about the Acklam Green Centre visit www.acklam-green-centre.com 

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea at Café Connect

Café Connect is hosting a special event to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday 11 March.

Located at the heart of the Acklam Green Centre, Café Connect will be serving an indulgent afternoon tea, so that people can treat their mums and other special ladies in their life.

The mouth-watering menu comprises of finger sandwiches, homemade scones, a selection of cakes and a choice of tea, coffee or herbal tea.  Guests will be able to pre-order an individual choice of sandwich fillings and scones and can choose from a Traditional Afternoon Tea or a Prosecco Afternoon Tea with an added glass of fizz to mark the occasion.

Melanie Owen, Café Connect, said: “Everyone loves an afternoon tea, especially on Mother’s Day, so we have decided to mark the occasion by hosting a special event on the day so people can treat the special ladies in their life.

“Our afternoon teas can be booked weekdays throughout the year and have proved popular with individuals and organised groups alike. We will soon be offering afternoon tea vouchers too which are an ideal gift.

“Our Mother’s Day afternoon tea is an opportunity to remind the public that Café Connect is somewhere everyone can visit and enjoy, it’s not just for those attending events and meetings in centre.  All of our customers are guaranteed a warm welcome.”

The Mother’s Day afternoon tea is priced at £6.50 per person or £12 for two with the prosecco option priced at £10.50 per person or £20 for two. It will be served between 12pm and 3pm on Sunday 11 March and places must be booked in advance by Wednesday 07 March, 2018.  Individual menu choices and any special dietary requirements must also be confirmed by this date.  To book please call the centre weekdays 9am – 5.30pm on 01642 811 120.

Acklam Green Centre launches public access defibrillator

Acklam Green Centre hosted an event for the local community, as part of the rollout of Middlesbrough Council’s public access defibrillator network. 

The business and community centre invited people along to a special launch event in the centre on Friday 5th January to introduce them to their local defibrillator, which is located on the exterior of the building. The event included mini demonstrations from the North-East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and there was also an opportunity for members of the community to sign-up for free training with more in-depth knowledge of CPR and using a defibrillator.

Acklam Green Centre took the opportunity to extend the event by inviting a number of local organisations to give out advice and information to help people start 2018 on a healthy and positive note. Organisations who attended included; Actes a charitable company which delivers a wide range of services to help people improve their lives, Age UK Teesside, Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind, Ageing Better Middlesbrough, Healthwatch, Middlesbrough Environment City and Everyone Active, who ran taster sessions of New Age Bowls and Frisbee Golf to promote physical exercise for all. 

In addition, a nurse and Health Care Advisor carried out a number of Healthy Heart Checks for those aged 40-74 and mini-health checks for people aged 25-39.

Donna Smith, facilities manager at Acklam Green Centre, said: “We are delighted that Acklam Green Centre was chosen by Middlesbrough Council to be fitted with a public access defibrillator as part of the rollout of the borough-wide public-access defibrillator network.

“This is an important device that can help save lives, so we were pleased to host the event alongside Middlesbrough Council and North East Ambulance Service to introduce the facility to members of the public within a 500 metre radius of the centre.”

Cllr Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “Clearly it is stating the obvious but defibrillators save lives and therefore having a network of them across our communities in Middlesbrough, accessible to all, is a very positive thing to do.

“We are delighted to launch the latest of these at the Acklam Green Centre and the more people who are aware they are there and the more people are trained to use them, the more lives will be saved.”

For further information about training on CPR and using a defibrillator contact firstresponder@neas.co.uk. For further information about the Acklam Green Centre visit www.acklam-green-centre.com

It’s all go at Café Connect

The Acklam Green Centre’s catering team have continued to be kept busy preparing food for numerous business and celebration events in recent weeks, as well as for members of the public using Café Connect. 

The team has recruited an extra pair of hands in the form of 20-year-old Shannon Doley who was appointed as Catering Apprentice in November to help manage the increased demand. Shannon is settling in well and is providing valuable support to the team to aid the smooth running of the catering function.

Donna Smith, facilities manager at Acklam Green Centre, said: “We pride ourselves on providing superb catering services to compliment our excellent meeting, office and event facilities. The team has been very busy recently providing clients with a range of catering options from breakfast buffers to a hot and cold lunch menus and afternoon tea which is testament to the high standards we maintain.

“Shannon is proving to be a welcome addition to the team at this busy time and we look forward to supporting her with her career development through the apprenticeship programme.”

There has been lots going on at both venues since our last newsletter and things are showing no sign of slowing down before we take our annual Christmas break. Bookings have continued to see an upward trend, the office space at Acklam Green Centre has become fully occupied and groups running a variety of activities from both facilities continue to provide plenty of things to do for the local community. We hope you enjoy reading about our latest news and a fantastic January offer. We’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year and we look forward to seeing you in 2018!

For further information about catering at Acklam Green Centre contact 01642 811 137.

GOAL launches at business centre to teach children life lessons

A new business has launched in Middlesbrough to provide important life and financial education lessons to primary school children. Game of Actual Life (GOAL) has set up from the Acklam Green Centre, taking the office space at the purpose-built facility to full capacity.

GOAL, a not-for-profit community interest company, is the brainchild of duo Simon Carson, who already runs a successful Sports Schools business from the facility, and Anne-Marie Carson who boasts 28 years’ experience in teaching, including as a deputy head and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator in large primary school.  

Simon and Anne-Marie had identified a need to provide children with the opportunity to gain confidence with money in everyday situations, while giving them invaluable life skills which will stay with them into their adult life.  The GOAL programme has been developed to covers five key areas comprising: Keep in Credit, covering the basics of money management, where the tricky aspects of maths are given a real life focus as children manage their ‘GOAL’ bank accounts, mortgages and pensions; Keep Learning, focusing on soft skills such as social communication, a positive attitude and dealing with people; Keep Fit, covering exercise and nutrition; Keep Calm, which is focused on mental wellbeing and provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness; and Keep Safe which permeates through every element of the programme, concentrating on strategies for children to take into adulthood to protect them both online and in the real world.

The GOAL programme covers a wide range of topics ranging from buying a car to mortgages and buying a house, all of which are delivered in a practical way while supporting maths and English and other Key stage 1 and 2 subjects.  The bespoke programme can be delivered across the school year or for shorter durations including a GOAL in a Day option. 

Anne-Marie Carson, Business Development Manager at GOAL, said: “The Game Of Actual Life plugs a gap in the market for a dedicated programme that teaches important life lessons about how to handle money and how to live a happier, healthier life. It provides the opportunity for application of basic skills taught at school and is delivered in a fun and engaging way.

“The programme aims to provide experience of everyday adult life such as getting a job and paying bills and can impact on the children's appreciation of why it's important to do well in school.  The feedback we are already receiving from parents is that their children are more understanding about money, and teachers enjoy being able to refer to GOAL during maths and other curriculum subjects.”

GOAL has already been delivered in over 100 schools in Middlesbrough, the company’s heartland, across the wider Tees Valley area and into North Yorkshire.  Simon and Anne-Marie, supported by four other delivery staff and a board of directors made up of representatives from education, public health, the police and fitness and nutrition experts, are already planning for further growth, however the business remains committed to expanding from the Acklam Green Centre.

Simon Carson commented: “I am delighted with the growth the Acklam Green Centre enabled our Sports Schools to achieve, so I had no hesitation in establishing GOAL from the centre too. We benefit from access to the excellent meeting and conference rooms, sports facilities and of course fantastic office space, providing us with all of the facilities we need under one roof.  What’s more, the centre is in an accessible location that supports our planned expansion across the region and beyond.  We are already getting excellent feedback about GOAL from some of the top Ofsted rated schools and are receiving enquiries from across the UK and even overseas. The potential is vast.”

GOAL and Simon Carson Sports School jointly employ 39 people from the Acklam Green Centre, a figure which is due to increase in the coming months. The businesses occupy four ground floor offices, taking the centre to full capacity.

Donna Smith, facilities manager for Acklam Green Centre, said: “We are really pleased to welcome Game of Actual Life to the Acklam Green Centre. This unique business, which is teaching primary school children important life lessons, has huge expansion potential and we are delighted to be able to support the team with their exciting growth plans in place by providing them with a professional business environment.” 

For further information about the Game of Actual Life (GOAL) call 07966767284, email: amcarson.gameofactuallife@gmail.com .

Acklam Green Centre provides a range of office space options from part-time ‘hot desking’ and ‘co-working’ to permanent desks and private office space. It also provides first-class meeting rooms, conference and events facilities, and football pitches for hire to businesses across Tees Valley as well as the local community. For further information call 01642 811120, email info@acklam-green-centre.com or visit www.acklam-green-centre.com.