LIFE has changed beyond recognition for many people over the past year, for organisations as well as individuals.

But throughout the past 12 months, Hexham Community Centre has been a beacon of light for those who have needed it the most.

The popular venue, on Gilesgate, had already worked hard to get itself on to a sound financial footing before the pandemic struck, with Hexham Youth Initiative, Slimming World, and taekwondo classes among its regular user groups.

Yet when usual activities came to a grinding halt last March, Hexham Community Centre evolved to function in a different way to serve the town in the midst of a pandemic.

It continued to host play group sessions – initially for the children of key workers only, and also supplying the elderly and vulnerable with hot meals.

Each week, the Courant awards its Bouquet of the Week honour to individuals or organisations which have gone the extra mile, and this week our spotlight beams on the community centre, for the tireless work of its staff and volunteers.

Today, the the play group continues to cater for children aged 2-5, and is now able to welcome all children, not just those of key workers.

The centre’s weekly luncheon club, previously a popular fixture for senior citizens, evolved into a remarkable venture at the onset of the first lockdown.

Spearheaded by caretaker Stephen Hope, with the support of volunteers, hot meals are freshly made before being delivered to those who need them most every Wednesday.

On Christmas Day, an army of 80 volunteers distributed pre-packed festive stockings, with contributions from businesses including the Body Shop and Egger UK.

Last week, the people at the heart of the centre announced plans to transform wasteland outside the building into a tranquil garden area, for the benefit of user groups.

The garden is set to become an ideal location for play group children to explore nature, and for luncheon club members to socialise.

The centre is also progressing other capital projects, including new floors, a kitchen, toilet facilities, a replacement fire door, and a newly-refurbished Stan Batey Hall.

The community centre’s Covid recovery plan is well under way. It has received grants from the Social Enterprise Support Fund, the Community Foundation, as well as the National Lottery, to keep it ticking over during the pandemic.

For the latest plans, Hexham’s county councillors Trevor Cessford, Cath Homer and Derek Kennedy, have all made contributions from their respective council member funds, as well as a Lottery grant.

All money very invested wisely indeed.