Smarties facing closure threat

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 28 July 2020

A much-loved baby and toddler group is looking for enthusiastic volunteers to take it over.

Smarties playgroup has been a welcome magnet for parents and children across Saddleworth since Jane Ireland took it over ten years ago.

But now she is seeking volunteers to supervise the running of the hugely popular group which meets every Monday during school term time at Denshaw Village Hall.

Jane, a mother of three who lives in the village, said: “I have a great team of volunteers who help in the kitchen, setting up and tidying. 

“My parents, Ann and John Ellis, have helped me since day one and I was also lucky to have local residents Mary and Michael Turner helping every week, and more recently Maggie Buckley.

“However, my youngest son is now 11 and I think it’s time I passed the baby wipes on to someone else!”

She declared: “It's such a lovely group and we see the same faces every week and everyone helps out in one way or another.

“It’s a really great place for new mums to find and make friends and meet people to give advice and swap tips.

"All my own family have made lifelong friends through Smarties.

*Every week we have to buy the food, set up the toys and equipment and make breakfast and snacks for children and adults too.

“We finish each session with nursery rhymes - thanks to lovely Lisa Redman-Hill of Hills Angels childminders -  while we tidy away and clean up.

"Lisa said she would continue singing and help with craft if the new volunteers wanted that.

“We need at least three volunteers to be able to run the group.

"I will help whoever takes over for the first couple of weeks to show them the ropes if they want help.

“The  group stopped in March due to the pandemic, but that’s not the main reason why I’m finishing.

"I’ve always said I’d do it while my youngest was at primary and then move on.

"Unfortunately, it’s due to the pandemic that I’m finding it hard to find replacement volunteers.

"Smarties is a place for mums, dads, grandparents, carers, childminders and not just the children who come to play and have fun.

“It's a great asset to the village and we get mums, dads, grandparents and childminders from all over Saddleworth, and even as far as Ashton and Holmfirth, every week.

"All toys, tables, chairs, slides and mats will be provided, even toasters, cups and plates.

“I thank everyone who has helped me over the years and everyone who has supported us.”

Alan Roughley, chair of Denshaw Community Association, said: “It would be a tragedy if this very successful mums and tots group should fade away because of the pandemic. 

“It has brought together mothers and their very young babies and toddlers from all over Saddleworth, it’s a real community success story.

“The Denshaw Village Hall is starting to reopen following a number of improvements and changes which will enable it to be fully Covid-19 secure.”

Smarties meet between 9:30-11:15am. 

The fee is £3 per adult and child.

Extra children/adults are 50p.

Babies under six months are free.

There are snacks and drinks for the children included in the price and unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits for adults.

 If you can help, Jane Ireland can be messaged via Saddleworth Smarties Playgroup Facebook page or call her on: 07576 710601.

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