Pathway celebrates 10 years!

The vision was to set up a ‘day centre without walls’ – a place where local people with learning disabilities could be as much a part of the community as anyone else.

Fast forward a decade and Mencap Pathway, run by Heart of England Mencap, has achieved just that, celebrating its 10th birthday with a party at Stratford Town Hall on Saturday July 23rd - and reflecting on the countless opportunities it has enabled.

Pathway now runs not just in Stratford where it started, but also in Warwick and Malvern, providing empowering and meaningful day activities for adults and young people with learning and physical disabilities.

From cooking to gardening, swimming to cycling, drama, singing, photography, art, science and core skills like maths, reading and writing, it’s an individually-tailored service which focuses on abilities and not disabilities.

Some 260 Pathway sessions are now accessed each week, with active involvement in the community playing a key part too. There are lots of trips out and opportunities to volunteer, helping to litter pick with Rubbish Friends or lending a hand at Mary Arden’s Farm.

Pathway was the vision of its founder Jake Thornton, who said: “A decade ago during a time of many council-run day centre closures, my mission behind setting up Mencap Pathway was to create something new and radically different for our customers. Pathway could be summed up as ‘a day centre without walls’ - the aim was for our customers to become as much a part of the community as anyone else, through our activities and continuous community participation.”

Kate Buttrick, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager for Heart of England Mencap, was also there at the start.

She says: “From being one of the original team to now, I can truly say this has been the best 10 years in my working life. We have achieved so much over the years and managed to overcome many obstacles. Between the staff, past and present, we’ve built many vibrant, person-centered, multi-activity centers to help people with a learning disability and autism achieve their personal goals - whilst having much fun and laughter along the way.”

Whilst the last two years have thrown up so many challenges, the Pathway team have been committed to continuing their support throughout, setting up online groups and sending activity packages home when it wasn’t possible to be together in person because of Covid restrictions. 

Pathway highlights include cycling in the Forest of Dean, a photography exhibition at Shakespeare’s New Place and the drama group’s 2021 production of ‘A Christmas Carol’.

At its heart, it’s about the smaller moments too; giving people choice, developing skills, increasing independence, building friendships and sharing a lot of smiles.

Sandra says: “I love going to Pathway and I go 5 days a week!  My favorite activities are cooking, exercise class on Fridays and listening to my music.  I like meeting new people at Pathway and the staff are really friendly.”

Russell says: “Coming to Pathway has given me lots of chances to try new things like volunteering at Mary Arden’s and the Apple Farm.  I also like to help staff at the day centre.  I’ve made new friends and I always feel happy when I’m here.”

Diane says: “I wanted to join Pathway to see my old school friends but I’ve made new friends too!  I have learnt new skills like painting and upcycling.  I learn better here because the staff help me.  I’ve been given opportunities to try new activities which I’ve never done before and I like being part of a team that helps other people.”

For more information on Pathway and getting involved, call 01789 298709.