THE first anniversary for The Old Silk Works club run by Alzheimer's Support, the place where people can just be themselves, was celebrated recently with a party.

“Old Silk Works is a wonderful place. My father Ron goes twice a week and it has helped him, and me, so much. He loves coming to see his friends, and to see the dogs. He just feels at home and totally accepted there,” said carer Maria Nokes, whose father Ronald Lane was one of the first members of the day club in Warminster.

Alzheimer’s Support opened the club after a nine-month project to transform a Victorian silk mill in Beech Avenue. Since then it has become a vibrant hive of activity, warmth and companionship for up to 13 people with dementia at a time, four days a week. Although the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, club staff and volunteers work hard to support each member to do the things they enjoy, to retain skills and make new social connections.

The space includes an indoor garden area, large, open plan kitchen area so anyone can get involved, and a retro-fitted lounge. Therapy dogs Higby and Dottie are frequent visitors and other volunteer dogs come along on a rota basis.

Head of Day Care Grant Newton said: “This was a massive project for Alzheimer’s Support. The build was hugely challenging, but we had enormous support from the local community and from the very first day we knew the space was going to work. Within a few short weeks the club was full to capacity and the reports from carers, volunteers and staff were incredibly positive.

“What the team has built here is very special. The staff and volunteers make it look so easy, and the atmosphere is totally relaxed, natural and informal, but it takes tremendous skill and natural compassion, to make that work.

The talents of club manager Louise Gover were recognised when she won a Proud to Care award in the inspirational manager category of Wiltshire Council’s award scheme last month.

Carer Ken Windess, whose wife June was also a founder member, got involved in the club as a volunteer handyman, He said: “A few weeks previous to the opening I visited to see how the conversion was progressing. I immediately saw what a daunting task this was so being a carpenter and joiner by trade, I volunteered my help.

“The day then came when June and all the other people that soon became her friends arrived for the first time. Seeing the look on their faces when they first saw this modern, light and airy, comfortable building, was a sight I shall remember for the rest of my life.

“June enjoyed attending every week. She loved the staff and volunteers, they took such great care of her and I shall never be able to thank them enough. She is now unfortunately in full time care following a fall but I am continuing to do my little bit, really to try and give something back. I now count the staff and volunteers amongst my greatest friends.”

To find out more about the club see