A charity that supports people with communication difficulties is to close after 27 years due to “financial implications”.
Find A Voice, which is based in Ashford, helps people of all ages with severe speech, language and communication needs by providing access to life-enhancing advice, equipment and training.
It first launched in 1996 as the Kent Language and Communication Centre before being renamed Find A Voice.
But from December 1, the organisation based in Beaver Lane will close its doors for the final time.
In a statement, the charity said: “It is with deepest regret that Find A Voice will be closing as of December 1.
“This in large is due to the financial implications small charities find themselves in, in the current economic crisis.
“The board and team have worked tirelessly to try and prevent this from happening and the decision has not been made lightly.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our community, service users and volunteers who have supported us over the past 27 years.
“Our team will be reaching out to those that have equipment on loan to establish returns.
“Sadly, with this in mind, we will be cancelling our Christmas quiz. We will be in touch to discuss refunds with immediate effect.
“Once again thank you all for your support.”
Unite Nightclub, a service which launched under the Find A Voice umbrella in April, will continue as a separate entity.
It is a monthly self-funded event that gives people with communication difficulties opportunities to socialise.
It is set to expand to include more events and will soon be called Unite Ashford.
The Find A Voice HQ near Jemmett Road became a site for service users to continue their education after school with a fully qualified teacher.
They learned a range of IT, employability and life skills while developing their interests.
One person who has benefited from the charity’s work over the years is former Towers School pupil Rose Brown who lost the ability to speak, and move her arms and legs, after she was struck by a car 14 years ago.
“So many people have helped the charity over the years...”
The team at Find A Voice helped Rose unlock new methods of communication and gain independence in ways her family never thought would be possible.
Charity president Alastair Dutch says he is “saddened” by the closing.
“I knew the charity has been struggling for about a year and the reasons are financial,” he said.
“The saddest thing about it is that Find A Voice is 27 years old and I was around at the birth of it in 1996 when it was the Kent Language and Communication Centre.
“Our first patron was Bob Holness the broadcaster, he came up with the name Find a Voice.
“So many people have helped the charity over the years and it is very sad it can't go on.”
Britain's Got Talent winner Lee Ridley, better known as Lost Voice Guy, held a gig at The Revelation at St Mary’s Church in town to raise funds for the charity.
Other celebrities they have worked with include actress Jan Francis from Woodchurch, singer Gareth Gates, and Ashford-born broadcaster Bob Holness known for presenting Blockbusters.
In 2013 the charity was featured in a documentary which aired on television and online.
It was selected for the Untold Stories scheme, which matches small charities with top filmmakers who volunteer their time to create professional shorts that demonstrate the impact of the chosen charity’s work.