Fitzalan Means a Family Our charity’s Fitzalan Howard Centre – affectionately called ‘Fitzalan’ or ‘Fitz’ by attendees and staff – provides day and respite services for adults with disabilities and more complex needs. We couldn’t think of anyone better to talk about Fitzalan than Christine, who has been attending since 1997. Asked what the centre means to her, she replied, “Fitzalan means a family.” She went on to add, “We know each other, we’re the same as each other. No one is different to one and other, so we all don’t stare at each other. So, it just makes it be a bit easier.” This sense of family, comfort, and connectedness is felt strongly by Christine. In another interview a few years ago, she said, “We’re a family here. Everyone knows each other. We’ve got similar disabilities, so we’re not different to each other. We have a laugh and a joke. You can relax here without worrying about upsetting each other.” Christine with her friends at the Fitzalan Howard Centre Christine, who lives in Guild Care supported living, currently attends Fitzalan two times a week. Her favourite activities at Fitz are crafts, drama and enjoying music with her friends – the latter being focused on the work of the undeniably brilliant Meat Loaf. Currently in crafts, Christine is working on a crystal art piece – a process of painting with stones. This piece is being made to celebrate Toby, Christine’s beautiful Labrador cross golden retriever. However, it must be said that Toby isn’t just a pretty, paintable face; he is also a service dog. Christine and Toby have been companions since October 2021 and have undergone most of their training through the pandemic. So far, he is mental health trained, can help Christine with clothes and doors, and can empty a washing machine. Eventually, he will be diabetic alert trained and will learn how to fill a washing machine – so he’ll be able to do the full load. Regarding her dramatic activities, last Christmas Christine performed in Fitzalan’s production of ‘The Nativity That’s Gone Wrong’ with her friends. Although she admits one or two things did in fact go wrong, she also knows that’s just showbiz. (L) Christine's crystal art piece (R) Christine performing in ‘The Nativity That’s Gone Wrong’ On top of the activities at Fitzalan, Christine is also part of the centre’s Community Links group, which, before the pandemic, visited local schools. They would perform plays, teach Makaton signing, and talk about living with disabilities. Christine explained, “We show the children that… we’re no different to everyone else. We might have a disability, but we’re exactly the same.” Asked if she’s looking forward to Community Links returning now that it’s safer, she replied, “Yeah! I really missed doing it, because it gets us out and shows children [we’re not different]. It’s quite funny, we end up in hysterics sometimes with the plays we do. I really enjoy it.” Christine at a Community Links visit How Fitzalan helps her interact with others is clearly important to Christine – both at the centre with her friends, and outside the centre as part of Community Links. Asked how she would feel if she couldn’t come to Fitzalan anymore, she said, “I would feel quite sad because I’ve got friends here and we’re the same as each other. So, if I didn’t come here, I wouldn’t be able to mix with anyone.” To help stop social isolation, it’s important that, with your support, Guild Care raises money each year to keep running community services like the Fitzalan Howard Centre. Christine said, “I think people need to support because there’s not many of the centres around. Centres are closing. People are ending up not going out or not mixing. So, I think people need to donate to keep the day centre running and keep the staff in their jobs and keep the clients coming and being like a family.” Donate to Guild Care today to support people like Christine to live well, enjoy life, and love every day.