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PICTURES: Community centre in Inverness leads the way in resuming activities in wake of coronavirus pandemic – and celebrates £6500 Lottery grant

By Val Sweeney

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Elsie Normington leads the Rainbow Singers.
Elsie Normington leads the Rainbow Singers.

An Inverness community centre leading the way in resuming activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has been awarded £6500 from the National Lottery.

Merkinch Community Centre, which hosts 62,000 visits in a normal year, had to close its doors for more than a year due to regulations.

But in recent weeks, it has resumed activities, including a lunch club, singing groups, Tai Chi, archery and Highland dancing, to the relief and delight of those centre users for whom it is a lifeline.

There has been another celebration as the "incredible efforts" of staff and volunteers were praised by the National Lottery Community Fund in awarding the grant.

The centre’s development officer Elsie Normington said the money would be used for general running costs to help it recover from the impact of the pandemic.

"While we were closed there were still bills to pay," Mrs Normington said.

"It’s an issue lots of businesses have faced and for us as a small community charity, it was a lot of money we had to pay out when we were not generating any income."

After being closed for 62 weeks, the centre reopened a few weeks ago although it is not fully operational yet.

Mrs Normington said stepping through the door was a massive step for many but people were adapting and very happy to be back.

"Some people have been very nervous about coming back but have been reassured when they see all the measures we have in place," she said.

"We have made it a priority to be welcoming when people come through the door."

Users include the Rainbow Singers for adults with learning disabilities, Singing For Pleasure and a lunch club.

"For many people coming to the community centre, it is a lifeline," Mrs Normington said.

"People are very friendly and they love coming and getting the friendship and fun they enjoy at the centre.

"It is crucial to people’s mental health and wellbeing to come to the centre."

The centre was among 183 other groups to receive a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Scotland chairwoman Kate Still said: "In these unprecedented times, it’s heartening to see the way Scottish communities are coming together to provide each other with support.

"I would like to congratulate Merkinch Community Centre Association on their award which is testament to the incredible efforts of their staff and volunteers."

She added money raised by National Lottery players made such a difference.

Related story: Community centre live streams singing classes

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