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Warrington's blind centre - still going strong 90 years on
12:00pm Saturday 22nd March 2014 in News
WHEN Rex Furness was injured in a devastating accident at Crosfields in 1917 little did he know that 90 years later a society he helped to set up would still be going strong.
It was the explosion at the chemical plant, which killed and injured other workers, which left Rex, from Higher Whitley, blind.
And so it was the he decided to set up an organisation to help people in a similar situation to him.
These were the days before the NHS and before councils would provide support, so there was little help available.
Speaking to the Warrington Guardian in 1971, after Rex had died aged 75, his wife takes up the story.
She said: “The blind in those days had to walk the streets and beg for money to live.”
So it was that in 1923, the Warrington and District Society for the Blind was born - a year later it had a home, where it would stay for most of the next 90 years on Museum Street in the town centre.
The centre opened on March 20, 1924.
Rex spoke at the opening. He said: “You are handicapped, but you can and most blind people do, win through.
“There are a number of difficulties but the aspirations of blind people can be put in a very simple phrase.
“Namely, to become normal men and women, simply men and women of the ordinary class of the community, the only difference being that we cannot see.”
And that remains the aim today.
While the original society included a work house, with people making crafts and clothes, it also aimed to give people independence.
And it is a mantra that holds true today with visitors going out to the homes of not just blind people - but people of all visual impairments.
Hence the new name, the Warrington VIP centre - visually impaired people.
Their home new based at Fairfield Old School, where they relocated to three years ago, provides a social centre for them to meet in - with a team of volunteer drivers and greeters bringing people for lunches, gatherings and games of dominos.
MOVING to a new premises became a key aim of the group when it became clear that Museum Street was no longer fit for purpose.
There was no disabled toilet, access was difficult and corridors were narrow.
Under the chairmanship of Alderman John Taylor the group found a new home in Fairfield.
One thing that has not changed is the funding issue.
When the centre first opened in 1924, it needed £6,000 a year to run - it now needs £31,000 to help fund its service.
As well as activities at the centre, the charity has moved towards providing more for its members - including holidays and days out.
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