A COMMUNITY centre to support the town’s former armed forces personnel is set to open in a church hall thanks to a grant and business donations.
Plans for the ‘Centurion Centre’, to be based in the former men's club in St Mark's Parish Hall, North Road, were revealed during Saturday’s Armed Forces’ Day celebrations.
Reverend Bill Matthews, of St Marks and St Thomas' Parishes, told crowds gathered in Victoria Square of the venture after leading an uplifting service.
Veterans at the service
He has been working on the “exciting project” since last September alongside St Helens Councillor Joe Pearson, whose brief includes supporting the town’s past and present servicemen and women.
It will be part funded by an Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant and the enormous generosity of the St Helens business community who, to date, have donated, more than £62,000.
Lance Bombadier Sophie Bennett delivers the poem 'Who are these men'
Members of HMS Scimitar band played 'We are Sailing'
The Reverend Matthews added that the centre will serve the whole community and an opening date is expected in the autumn.
It is believed such a centre will allow communities to reach out to armed forces service leavers and to ensure they are not disadvantaged when they return home to St Helens, and have access to employment, housing and healthcare services.
Meanwhile, the event itself had a strong involvement of youth, with the sea cadets, army cadets and the TS Scimitar band, who played We are Sailing, adding to the atmosphere.
Tom Loughlin's performance included 'The White Cliffs of Dover'
Young tenor Tom Loughlin, from Garswood, ensured spirits were kept high despite the damp weather, as he performed stirring renditions of Land of Hope and Glory, the National Anthem and the White Cliffs of Dover, the latter chosen to mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
Army cadet Lance Bombardier Sophie Bennett read the poem Who are these men? Words of celebration followed from Officer cadet Dom Garner, of the Royal Navy, and the response was delivered by veteran Dean Owen.
Remembering the fallen
Veterans gathered in Victoria Square
There were fresh faces among the ranks