When Jonathan Evason was born with Down’s Syndrome in 1964, his parents Barrie and Sue, were told by a paediatrician that his disability meant he would never learn anything – but the doctor was wrong
The Evasons set out to show that people with learning disabilities, could have a productive and happy life.
Their belief lead to the creation of the Jennyruth Workshops at Bridge Hewick near Ripon, where learning through working, is at the heart of the charity’s operation, as it aims to develop the potential of its workers, staff and volunteers.
Barrie, who raised money to set up the workshops through a series of sponsored long-distance walks with Jonathan, died in February and his ashes will be buried later this year in an urn in a memorial garden on the site.
Nicky Newell (above, left) is the chief executive officer who heads the charity, which has a small number of full-time employees and a growing team of regular volunteers working with 28 workers aged between 19 and 73.
Pictured with her are, from the left, staff members Denise Carrigan, Phe Morris, Jackie Grant and PR and media adviser Anna Smith.
The workers are currently working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but remain linked to their colleagues through use of computers for twice-daily Zoom meetings and receipt of a weekly online bulletin.
Nicky, whose daughter Lucy, is among the workforce that produces hundreds of brightly-painted wooden goods, from bird houses and bee homes, to custom-made bespoke items and Christmas decorations, told The Stray Ferret:
“We are currently at full capacity, but have plans for further expansion that will enable us to work with more adults with learning disabilities.”
The remote services developed to link all those involved in the charity’s daily activities, will be offered to others as part of an outreach programme after the workers are able to return to the workshops.
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Nicky pointed out:
“We don’t want to be in a position where we are having to turn anybody away.”
Despite the fact that the pandemic caused the loss of major fundraising and sales events, including its annual golf day; The Great North Run and stalls at the Harlow Carr and Newby Hall flower shows, the charity remains optimistic. Anna Smith, said:
“Those who have been unable to support us through these events, can still make donations on Go Fund Me as part of our Rainbow Miles fundraiser.”