Today marks exactly one year since we opened the doors to our new charity premises at 627 Dumbarton Road.
Our staff and volunteers had spent weeks painting and cleaning and planning and despite the odds it all came together in time for MSP Marie McNair, Councillor June McKay and Councillor Jim McElhill arriving and the ribbon cutting to take place.
We thought that the hard work was over at that point but really it had just begun.
Our little charity had never had such a public building and we found that our services were much needed. And it just kept growing.
Since our doors opened on 27th June 2022 we’ve added so much on to what we do. Having premises has allowed us to offer the services of a welfare and disability rights solicitor, advocates to help people apply for benefits, run our own peer led support groups and offer a space for small community groups to come together and continue to run.
We’d like to thank the organisations who partnered with us in the last year to enable us to provide all of these services - our disability rights solicitor Con Cunningham and our benefits advocates Voiceability. You all have become a part of the BDG team in the past year.
We were honoured to have been invited along to the Scottish Parliament by Voiceability and blown away to find out that we were their second biggest referrer in Scotland. This past year we’ve also worked with Cancer Research, Advice.scot and NHS24.
We also added some amazing volunteers to our little family and watched them become integral parts of our charity.
Our timing wasn’t great - the cost of living crisis hit and, as a charity that does not get a lot of funding and relies on the little donations we receive, it was a tough time for us. It’s not a secret that Kevin and I often cover a lot of the charity’s costs ourselves. During those months we were lucky enough to be successful for funding through WDCVS for money to cover our gas and electricity for a few months which then allowed us to become a registered warm space - opening our doors to anyone who needed somewhere warm to come. This worked out well as people who came to keep warm would often end up joining in our groups or seeking the support of our advisers. During this time we also gave out the last of our mental wellbeing boxes and dealt with an increase in people looking for help with debt or energy issues. We also became a registered Safe Place.
We held our 7th annual Big Disability Open Day in April. Close to 300 members of the public attended on the day to chat with over 50 groups and organisations representatives in what was our biggest and busiest open day so far.
I could not be more proud of everything that we’ve achieved in this last year. It’s been amazing to see that we are helping people to make long lasting differences to their lives, that we’ve had volunteers blossom and take on essential roles with one even becoming a member of staff and to feel the sense of welcoming safety that we have created for anyone living with a disability, mental health issue or long term condition.
From our Loss of Mobility Support group to Art for Anxiety we keep striving to fill the gaps where they are needed most.
We’ve been amazed by the thanks and feedback we have had from the people who receive the support of our amazing advisors. Sometimes it’s just been help filling in a form, putting people in touch with the right organisation or applying for a blue badge that makes a huge difference for people - other times it’s intensive ongoing support to reach their goals. Either way every client is important to us and we are all invested in helping them to achieve the best outcome.
On a personal note for Kevin and I, this has been the toughest year we have faced. After suffering complications during routine spinal surgery Kevin’s mobility and health was hugely affected. It has been the longest six months of struggle, healing, tears, trauma and loss - all while trying to keep the charity afloat. We can honestly say that The Big Disability Group would not have made this 1 year anniversary at our Big Disability Hub or our 6th birthday without the love and support of our staff, board members and volunteers. They have stepped up, worked hard and held the fort while we tried to put our lives back together behind the scenes. And for that we could not be more grateful.
It has definitely been an eventful year, one that we could not have imagined when that blue ribbon was cut at our opening ceremony but it has been worth it to know that we’ve made a difference in that time.
I guess all that is left to say is thank you. Thank you to Kathleen, Selina, Angela, George, Karen, Lorna, Natalie, Mille, John, Con and David, our board members old and new, all of the Voiceability advocates, CAB, our lovely ladies at Mags Yarn Buddies and the jewellery group, Allanah and Craig from our autism support group, our anonymous donor of a tea urn, Georgia, Billy, Tam, William, Mark, Michael, Andrew, Isobel, Derek, the sewing group, our lovely neighbours and the businesses next door, everyone who’s come along to our fundraisers, open day, focus groups and Tour De Millport, Howdens, our karate instructor Graham and everyone who attends the karate class, Karen and everyone from the We Care We Share group, all of the amazing businesses who donate to our raffles, everyone who’s dropped us in a wee packet of biscuits or art materials or home baking or ordered something from our Amazon wishlist. Every single one of you have been part of our first year at The Big Disability Hub and the reason we have made it to this milestone.
Here’s to year 2 and continuing to make a difference to people with disabilities or long term conditions, their families and carers.