A Sunderland community centre is a hive of activity again after local residents took over its lease.

With the help of funding from Sunderland City Council, and its own fundraising efforts, the group has overseen the extensive refurbishment of the Columbia Community Association building.

The local action started in September 2021 when Sunderland Labour councillor Dianne Snowdon held a meeting of local residents to discuss the future of the building, which was in a state of disrepair and action was needed to save it.

At the meeting, enough residents pledged their support to form a committee and the local community were able to take over the lease of the building.

Work began in earnest to make the building a viable community space. The refurbishment started in January 2022 and by June of that year the centre was open five days a week.

Throughout the project the group has used local suppliers whenever possible to carry out the work, to ensure the community benefits as much as possible.

This tireless work of local volunteers has paid off with the centre now abuzz with activity, with regular sessions including coffee mornings and gentle years yoga, the building also opens as a ‘warm space’ in the winter months.

It has played host to range of events in the last 12 months, including flower arranging, first aid training and even theatre, thanks to a collaboration with The Cultural Spring. The centre has also raised money and collected donations for the Ukraine and Veterans in Crisis Sunderland, as well as supporting Sister Mary Scholastica and her seafarers mission by knitting hats and collecting toiletries – it has become a true community hub.

The Columbia Community Association signed the lease for the building at the end of June this year and celebrated with an official opening on the 28 July 2023.

Cllr Snowdon, Labour councillor for Washington Central and chair of Columbia Community Association, said: “I’m so pleased that this building has been brought back to life and can once again be at the centre of this wonderful community.

“The passion and commitment of the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to turn this place around is inspiring and knowing that it is now providing a space for people to come together and feeling that sense of community is heart-warming.

“We get people who come in here that haven’t seen anybody all week and they can come in, have a cup of tea, a biscuit and a conversation and that can make the world of difference.”

You can find out more about the activities taking place at the centre on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/columbiacommunityassociation/