After almost 60 years’ service, Ken Corker, a volunteer and trustee with Wirral Mencap, is finally stepping down from his role on the board. Ken’s support, dedication and enthusiasm over the years has helped literally hundreds of people with learning disabilities develop their skills, have fun and get the support they need to live fulfilling lives.
In the 1960s, when there were few activities available in Wirral for children or adults with a learning disability, Ken began a social club, along with some local parents. This evolved into the weekly Crossbow Club, a place where people with learning disabilities could meet and make friends. Activities included bingo, table tennis, darts, crafts and the highlight of the year, a fantastic holiday to Devon.
As the Crossbow Club developed and grew, its reach expanded to offer additional support and advice to people with learning disabilities, their carers and their families too.
To this day, some of the original club members are still meeting up with friends at Crossbow. To many people, Ken and all the volunteers have become an extended family. There cannot be many people who have kept something going through the dedication and commitment of the same small volunteer team for almost 60 years. This is an astonishing contribution to the local community. The Crossbow Club attendees think the world of Ken and believe him to be an absolute legend.
Crossbow Club member Ken Oxton who has been going to the club since its start, said,
“I have been going to the club nearly every week for over 50 years, since the club started. They are all lovely, kind, helpful people. They are very patient with all the people at the club. They help me to write letters to my friends. They looked out for me when my mum died a few years ago. In March Ken phoned me to tell me that my best friend had died. I was very upset, but Ken was very kind. I really like going to the club to meet up with my friends, colour in my colouring books, play bingo and do jigsaws. Other people at the club play darts and snooker and dance. Lots of people go to the club so they must all enjoy it!”
Gwen Seller, Chair of Wirral Mencap said,
“Ken has always brought a calm, insightful voice to our trustee board. For many years he has generously given his time as trustee while also running the Crossbow Club. He and his wife Lynda have contributed to the charity by volunteering in many and varied ways. A particular highlight was seeing Ken dressed as an elf when Gordale Garden Centre kindly offered Wirral Mencap the opportunity to fundraise by running their grotto! Ken’s knowledge of Wirral Mencap and especially of the people who come to Crossbow is invaluable. He is a kind and compassionate man who has been at the heart of Crossbow Club and Wirral Mencap. He will be sorely missed by myself and the rest of the board.”
Sharon Nicholson, CEO of Wirral Mencap said,
“Ken’s support and good guidance on the board has been fantastic. I was new in post at the start of 2019 and Ken’s experience and knowledge was invaluable as we navigated our way through the impact of the pandemic and various lockdowns. Ken had planned to step down earlier. Thankfully he didn’t! Ken will be missed on the board however I am pleased to say he will still be volunteering at Crossbow occasionally. We can’t let him go entirely – just yet!”
Wirral Mencap began as a small parent led group, which registered as a charity in 1963. Today the charity is based in an office in Market Street, Birkenhead where staff and volunteers work to promote equality for people with a learning disability – helping them to discover new opportunities, make new friends and feel valued and safe in their community.
Despite disruption from the pandemic, Crossbow Club is still going strong today, with about 25 people with learning disabilities regularly attending every Wednesday night. If you or someone you know would be interested in coming along, or if you are interested in volunteering, call Wirral Mencap to find out more on 0151 666 1829.