An organisation dedicated to informing and helping disabled people, their carers and the elderly in Gillingham and the surrounding area is celebrating its 25th year.
The North Dorset Disability Information Service (NorDDIS), whose shop and information centre is at Newbury, opposite Lidl, helps people who are experiencing difficulty due to ‘disability, illness or frail old age’ to remain independent in their own home.
When set up its mission statement was: ‘To empower disabled people, older people, and/or their carers to have access to information about current services that are available, both statutory and voluntary.’
Its new vice-chair Sue Shotter explains: ‘This is still the principal aim of NorDDIS, but the service has grown to include the sale of disability aids in response to the wishes of the users.’
Gillingham’s mayor Barry Von Clemens, who visited the shop’s open day on Monday 2 September to mark the 25th anniversary, says he has personal knowledge of how important this ‘wonderful organisation’ is.
‘My late mother suffered from Parkinson’s and this was invaluable to me when she needed aids, as her condition deteriorated over the years. First of all we started off with the hire of a wheelchair before we bought one,’ he says.
‘NorDDIS is vital for the community, especially in a rural community. It’s important to be able to access all of what they have from just a simple thing such as a non-slip mat to the more large-scale things such as wheelchairs,’ says Councillor Von Clemens. ‘If you’ve got a relative coming down to stay what’s better than hire a wheelchair rather than trying to get it in the car along with everything else.’
NorDDIS chair Eileen Haddleton says they help ‘hundreds’ of people a year though they do not keep track of how many. ‘We do anything that is needed,’ she says pointing out that lots of carers come in, and that their clients include not just the elderly but younger people too, and come from Shaftesbury, Mere and surrounding villages as well as Gillingham. The shop also provides batteries for NHS hearing aids.
‘Our equipment is for hire or for sale. If we get a donation, which we do – a lot of people donate stuff when they don’t need it any more – we put it on sale and that helps to keep us going,’ says Eileen, who points out that the only grant they get is from Gillingham Town Council. ‘We’re managing to keep ourselves level,’ she adds.
The organisation currently has already 14 to 15 volunteers who look after the shop which is open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 1pm on Saturdays. But Eileen Haddleton admits they could ideally do with 20 and are looking for volunteers.
Vice-chair Sue Shotter says all volunteers get full training. ‘We go through training about what we sell and how to sell it, it has to be a certain type of of person,’ she says. ‘Not everyone can deal with that personal side of it.’
Eileen Haddleton adds: ‘What people come in for is not always what they need to have….’
The charity’s website is at: http://norddisdorset.org.uk