It was with with great sadness but also a sense of celebration that, on 29th May 2019, our Forest Hill branch met for the final time, after 32 years. The drop-in first opened its doors in May 1987, and it met for two hours almost every Wednesday evening since then.
In its final incarnation, home had been in the hall adjacent to St Saviour’s Church, Brockley Rise. Thanks to the generosity of the vicar and its church council, the rent for its use was charged at a reduced rate. Of even more value was the support that previous and the current Incumbent had offered to us. At the end, around 20 people ‘dropped in’. Many were regulars but, over the course of the year, up to 50 different people came by. It was a diverse group, and all the richer for that. Some had started off using the facilities and ended up as part of the group of volunteers running the drop-in.
The venture was the brainchild of Nick and Gail Cotton, two of our national committee members (plus one or two others), who were there right to the end. Everything was run through voluntary effort, and one particular volunteer, Joy Fisher, was there almost from the start and almost every week—she made sure we had food and refreshments! But, as is so often the case, finding new volunteers who are willing to dedicate time on a regular and medium/long term basis proved increasingly difficult. In the end, discussions were held with those who used the drop-in and the difficult decision to close the doors for the final time was taken.
But not before an enormous celebration was held on 29th May 2019. Any excuse for a party! But what an excuse, and what a party. There was fun and laughter, tears and hugs. Memories were shared and thanks were offered. But most of all, for something that was due to mark an ending, there was a sense of optimism. Perhaps, even at the point of closure, something might rise from the embers, phoenix-like. It hasn’t happened yet, but who knows. In the meantime, we should all say an enormous thank you to those with the original vision to start it off, the dedication to see it through, and the wisdom to recognise when it needed to end.