Manager celebrates 25 years at disability charity

Members of Centre 81 celebrate Julie Charles' 25 years. She is to the left of the giant card.Picture

Members of Centre 81 celebrate Julie Charles' 25 years. She is to the left of the giant card.Picture: TMS Media - Credit: Archant

It was party time at a charity-run centre in Great Yarmouth to mark a milestone for a long-serving manager.

Julie Charles has clocked up 25 years at Centre 81, where she has been its skills and activities manager for the past nine years.

She began at the Tar Works Road complex, which has 70 members with a range of disabilities, when she was 24, initially as a part-time facilitator and driver.

But Julie was encouraged to add to her qualifications for health and social care, leadership and management and is now one of its key figures.

Chief executive Diana Staines said: “Members love Julie’s energy, enthusiasm, sense of fun and spontaneity when their lives can at times seem to be dictated by routine due to their disabilities - and they were pleased to stage a party to celebrate her 25 years here.”

Julie said: “I treat the members just like anyone else. I don’t see the wheelchairs or communication problems. I just want them to have the chance to have fun, be themselves and try new things - rather than being wrapped in cotton wool.

“The real reward has been seeing members develop, gain in confidence and reach their own personal milestones such as doing their first solo sail of gaining more independence by learning to use an electric wheelchair.”

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Over her 25 years the Centre had changed, including encouraging members to think of their ability rather than their disability. “Highlights have included seeing members dancing in their wheelchairs at our party nights – and taking part in a festival wheelchair parade,” she added.

Before joining the centre Julie was a working mum as a supervisor at Seashore holiday camp’s food court while beginning her care career doing shifts in local residential homes.

“I was introduced to Centre 81 by a friend who was a cook here – and remember having to wear a Pink Panther outfit at a fancy dress event in first week here, which was a sign of the fun to come.”

Find out more about Centre 81 and its work at or call 01493 852573.