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  • Standbridge Community Centre

Standbridge Community Centre changes name to honour founding trustee

In a surprise ceremony on Saturday 20 May, The Standbridge Community Centre officially changed its name to the Monica Graham Centre, in honour of one of its founding trustees.

While a serving councillor for Wakefield South, Monica Graham become a founding trustee of the charity board that leased the former school buildings on Standbridge Lane, to create the thriving hub of community activities we have today.

Above: Monica Graham.

Monica served the Kettlethorpe community as a "very hands-on" Wakefield South councillor, winning four elections and holding the position for 16 years before retiring in 2016.

In 2018, Monica was diagnosed with cancer, which she continues to fight and was registered blind in 2020. Despite her health issues, Monica still plays an active part in the administration of the centre, using her many years of experience to continue her work for the community.

To ensure the surprise for Monica was more than just a name change, the trustees and a group of hardworking volunteers spent over four weeks refreshing the building's exterior. The changes include painting the outside, installing new signage, making the centre more accessible, building a new community garden and picnic area, and having a huge wall mural painted paying tribute to Monica and the groups that use the centre.

Above: The new garden, picnic area and wall mural located at the entrance to the Monica Graham Centre.

"The hardest part of the whole refresh was keeping all the work that has been carried out a secret from Monica", said trustee, Valerie Pawlowski.

Thinking she was going for lunch with her family, Monica was instead driven to the centre. On arrival, she was piped down the drive by a fanfare of herald trumpets played by members of the Yorkshire Volunteers, who use the community centre as their base and practise rooms, before listening to a short speech outlining what had been done in her honour.

Above: Family, friends and centre users applaud Monica as the Yorkshire Volunteers play a fanfare.

Visible overwhelmed by the occasion, Monica was then greeted by family, friends and centre users, including representatives from the 7th Wakefield Guides, SSD dance school, 299 Kettlethorpe Guardians boxing, WDH, The Friendship Group, Grow Wakefield, and Kettlethorpe Tenants and Residents Association.

"As a board, we wanted to do something that not only honours Monica for all that she has given to our community, but that is also a very usable space that can act as a legacy for many years to come", said Louise Harmsworth, Chair of the board of Trustees.

Trustee and the other founding member, Mark Roberts, said, "for as long as I have known Monica, she has worked tirelessly for the community. I can't think of a better way to show our love and respect for her than to name the centre in her honour."

Above: The trustees with Monica following the ribbon cutting. L-R: Louise Harmsworth, Joan Heywood, Monica Graham, Mark Roberts, Julia Baily (member), and Valerie Pawlowski.

Centre treasurer, Valerie Pawlowski, said, "despite everything Monica is going through, she keeps smiling, stays strong, and continues to work for the people of Kettlethorpe. She is a true inspiration to us all."

Speaking to the Wakefield Express, Monica said, “I was absolutely speechless, I didn’t expect it at all. It’s been a privilege to get to know so many people in the community, I’m surrounded by diamonds", before going on to thank her children.

Above: Flanked on either side by daughters, Daphne and Beverley, Monica arrives at the centre.

“My daughters: Beverly Buxton, Daphne Graham and son, Richard Graham have all taken second place in the order of importance because the centre took so much of my time.

"The last 20 years have been very full in terms of life experience and mixing with the wonderful communities and I’m so grateful to my family for inviting all the people that mean so much to me and have supported me during these difficult times.”

Monica was also keen to thank everyone who had come together to make the changes to the centre possible, saying, "I’m grateful to all the service users and centre members who came together to create this beautiful garden”.

Above: Monica thanking attendees

The trustees were also keen to express their thanks to everyone who has helped, with Valerie saying, “it was only made possible by people’s donations so thank you to everyone for your contributions, it would not have been possible without you.”

Above: Monica enjoys afternoon tea with members of the Friendship Group that meets at the centre each Wednesday.

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