The charity Launchpad, which provides high quality accommodation and much needed support for veterans in the heart of Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, is celebrating after receiving the donation of a brand new kitchen, courtesy of the UK’s leading home improvement and garden living retailer, B&Q.

Avondale House, which is owned by the Byker Community Trust (BCT), has received the fully fitted kitchen, which was kindly donated and fitted by colleagues at the Byker B&Q store.

The project, which was led by B&Q’s North East installation manager, John Mallinson and installed by Shaun Whitfield, included a complete remodeling of the existing kitchen in order to create more space and amenities for residents to enjoy.

The new kitchen has been fitted with Quartz worktops, two new ovens and hobs plus a dishwasher – almost doubling the amenities.

Admiring the newly fitted kitchen at Avondale House is Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the Byker Community Trust with Phil Ord, Manager of Avondale House AF&V Launchpad, John Mallinson, B&Q’s North East installation manager and colleagues from B&Q
Admiring the newly fitted kitchen at Avondale House is Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the Byker Community Trust with Phil Ord, Manager of Avondale House AF&V Launchpad, John Mallinson, B&Q’s North East installation manager and colleagues from B&Q

The facility, which is run by the charity, Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Launchpad, includes 34 one-bedroom flats, a 3-bedroom house and communal facilities for leisure, training and IT services.  It provides a safe environment in which residents can make a responsible transition from military to civilian life and addresses the issues that can sometimes lead to homelessness and unemployment.

The kitchen was officially declared open by Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT, at a specially organised event today (Friday, June 19) to thank everyone involved in delivering the project including veterans, members of the local community, the BCT and B&Q.

The communal facilities at Avondale House are available to use for residents living on the Byker estate.  The open plan communal room and kitchen, which can hold up to 50 people, provides the public with a fantastic new facility to hold functions and even came to the rescue for one local resident last weekend who urgently needed a room to celebrate a communion for their son and daughter.

The Byker B&Q store has also recently provided paint and other materials so that veterans could improve facilities at St. Michael’s Church.  The church was fully refurbished and re-equipped in February.

B&Q’s John Mallinson said:

“This has been a fantastic project to be a part of and one which I know John, Shaun and the team have worked extremely hard to complete. Being able to give back to the local community in the best way that we can and ultimately help people build better homes to live in is what B&Q is all about. We hope the people of Byker and Avondale House are as pleased as we are with what has been achieved over the last few months.”

The Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Launchpad secured a £2,000 donation from the BCT’s Community Activities Fund earlier this year towards the installation of a new kitchen in Avondale House that can be used for training and community events.  That money will now be invested into providing initiatives aimed at all ages within the Byker community.

BCT Chief Executive Jill Haley said:

“Launchpad’s Avondale House plays an integral role at the heart of the iconic Byker estate.  We invested £1 million into refurbishing this fabulous facility to help veterans with the focused support and assistance to launch them into their civilian lives but also provide a facility that can be accessed by the local community.  It is very generous of B&Q to donate and install the kitchen and demonstrates the strong community spirit we have here in Byker.  The money that was awarded from our Community Activities Fund will help deliver new activities on the estate to the benefit of the whole community to enjoy.”

David Shaw CBE, Chairman of Trustees at the Armed Forces & Veterans’ Launchpad, added:

“We are most grateful to the Byker Community Trust for the £2,000 donation towards the kitchen, and to B&Q for all their wonderful support to our community projects, and, of course, for fitting the new kitchen in Avondale House.  The veterans have enjoyed working together for the Byker community and are very grateful for their friendliness and support.”

The BCT received £250,000 from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant towards the refurbishment and regeneration of this Grade II* listed building in order to provide much needed housing for veterans returning into Newcastle and the North East.

Residents, who live in the accommodation for up to two years, are given assistance by Launchpad and interlinked organisations that give them the opportunity to live independently whilst receiving support to find jobs, housing and gain new skills.  Launchpad also ensures that veterans have the right support to sustain their health and wellbeing, as well as improving their literacy, employability and financial management skills.  After two years, they are expected to have gained employment and established alternative accommodation elsewhere to match their personal circumstances.  So far, over half the veterans have gained employment through Launchpad’s service.

For more information on Avondale House and Launchpad, click here.