WORK has started to transform a disused eyesore into a wellbeing centre for the community.

Willowbrook Hospice, which cares for people with life limiting diseases, bought Alexandra House, off Borough Road, on April 1 - and it is hoped the centre will be up and running before Christmas.

The building, near to Alexandra Park, has stood empty for six years and a £400,000 government grant made it possible for the hospice to buy and refurbish the premises.

Willowbrook Wellbeing Centre will be primarily used to provide support for terminally ill people and their families by providing somewhere they can go for advice and information and to meet with other people in similar circumstances.

Neil Wright, Willowbrook chief executive, said: "We first took an interest in the site around five years ago, so we are thrilled to be finally getting to work on it. This will be a real asset to Willowbrook and St Helens."

He added: "People are living longer but with more complicated diseases. We are finding the hospice very busy with complex patients.

"The hospice doesn't have enough beds for the demand. And many people want to be cared for at home at the end of their life.

"This centre will help us to support carers looking after people at the end of their life."

Besides this, there are plans to hold fundraising events at the centre - such as the annual Moonlight Walk.

Mr Wright said: "We will be more visible with this new, large site and will be able to hold events here rather than further afield.

"We will also have space to offer educational sessions for our staff, GPs and district nurses."

As a social enterprise, the centre - complete with cafe and shop - will host health-related activities for the community, such as Zumba and yoga classes. There will also be continuing support, such as bereavement counselling, for those who have lost loved ones.

Mr Wright said: "We are bringing a building back to community ownership.

"One of our 10 shops will close - but the space and resources provided at the centre will more than compensate for that."

He added that once the centre opens its doors, they will be looking to recruit more volunteers.

Anyone who would like to volunteer at Willowbrook can apply at