Voluntary Action Worthing welcomed its largest ever turnout for its final forum, a celebration of its work in the voluntary sector over the past 25 years.
It was a day for celebration rather than sadness, although the trustees and members remained shocked at the decision made by Worthing Borough Council in 2016 to withdraw its funding.
Peter Goldfinch, joint chairman, said: “Our members found the decision made by Worthing Borough Council very difficult to understand. I am not going to say any more about it now. This is a celebration.
“Despite losing our funding in 2016 and having to make staff redundant, we remained the democratically-elected service for Worthing and with some short-term funding, we were able to continue to run our forums and masterclasses.
“In addition, we have been able to help the trustees of St Paul’s to make the most of that fantastic building.
“Sadly, the money has now run out and we are closing. We sincerely hope our true legacy will be the positive difference we have made in the community sector.”
He said the regular Worthing Voluntary Sector Forum meetings had provided an invaluable opportunity for people to meet and exchange information.
A Legacy Report has been produced to mark the closure and record some of the work since the formation of the organisation as the Worthing Council for Voluntary Service in 1992.
Mr Goldsmith said: “We quickly became the go-to organisation for advice and support.”
Over the years, the organisation supported the community, offering advice, networking and an exchange of information, and was well-regarded by the voluntary sector as it was so effective.
Dial-a-Ride was one of the first initiatives, being set up in 1997. It operated two vehicles and averaged 23,000 miles a year. In 2011, it became a stand-alone charity to enable it to expand.
The Volunteer Bureau was an important service, set up in 1998, and a volunteer centre was established in 2004. Sadly, after three years, this was closed due to lack of funding but the work continued as a successful outreach service.
The Good Neighbour Scheme was set up in 2000 to help elderly and disabled people with small, practical tasks. This was eventually expanded to help people who had come out of hospital and in 2007, the scheme was taken on by Age Concern.
The EESI Project (Effective, Efficient Supported, Independent, launched in 2004, was perhaps one of the most important and successful projects. Run in partnership with Arun Wide CVS, this provided for three development workers assisting with advice and training for new organisations. The scheme ran for seven years and eventually covered the whole of West Sussex, before funding eventually ran out.
Nick Demetriades, joint chairman, said any surplus money once the organisation closes on January 31 will go to Worthing Community Chest.