The ‘Thursday Club’ invites individuals with diverse needs, including learning, behavioural and social difficulties to meet together in a safe environment for fun and friendship.
Every Thursday Worthing Salvation Army opens its doors for the best party in town. “We have 88 members on our register and we get new people coming most weeks,” says Liz, one of the volunteers that help to run the club.
With each week there's a different main activity. “Last night we ran a disco, next week will be karaoke, and the week after will be a games and film night. Then we start again with disco. We always have a Christmas disco and meal and give out gifts. We also hold a summer ball before the summer break.”
The club is a vital part of the local community because it remains the only evening group in Worthing to provide a closely supervised environment for people with special needs. Liz adds: “The fact we have twins with Downs Syndrome who started attending when they were 18 and still come now they are 42 shows the club is very much needed and appreciated.”
Apart from providing a safe place for members to socialise and have fun, the club also gives members the opportunity for development. “One member helps with our tuck shop,” Liz explains. “His name is Martin and he has helped for years. He has to use a calculator to give change and takes his time but everyone understands.”
While the club can provide respite for carers, some choose to attend with the members. “There are many opportunities for us to engage and offer a listening ear. You can tell by the faces how much our club is appreciated,” says Liz.
Tina, who cares for her brother and sister, says: “My siblings have been attending the club for many years and just love it. We're always sure of a warm welcome, a friendly face and staff and volunteers that genuinely care and take interest. My brother and sister love all the activities on offer: discos, karaoke, games, films, parties and the opportunity to socialise with their friends in a safe, caring environment. We feel David, Janet and Liz really go the extra mile to ensure everyone is having fun. The club is a credit to this town and valued by so many with disabilities.”
The club does not merely meet a need in the community; it embraces people into the church family. “The person who does the disco and karaoke for us has sung at one of our evening services,” Liz explains, “and every Christmas we invite club members to come down into our main hall for carols with the band. They are invited to conduct the band in a favourite carol. The delight on their faces is wonderful to see.”
Liz’s sensitive and caring nature has made her a valuable source of encouragement for those connected to the club who may be finding life difficult. She offers spiritual support and reassurance and helps them to feel loved and valued by the wider church family. She says “there is a trust that has built up over the years between those who attend and the people who run the club. It's tiring and challenging but so very rewarding when you know how much the club is appreciated.”