A MUCH-LOVED children’s summer playscheme that served the community for 30 years closed this week because of a lack of funds.
Stonegrove Playscheme has provided almost 1,800 youngsters with summer activities since 1980, but rising costs and decreasing grants forced the scheme to come to an end.
But the final day went out on a high, with a surprise presentation honouring Stonegrove Playscheme's founders on Thursday afternoon.
Val Lay, 65, Lorraine Bidewell, 63, and Judith Kerr, 68, were presented with flowers and certificates at Broadfields School, in Broadfields Avenue, where the scheme moved to five years ago from Edgware School, now The London Academy, in Spur Road.
Mrs Lay said: "We are really sad, but we’re happy that we’re going out on a really big high. We never expected anything like this.
"We are going to miss it very much, because it has been part of our lives for so long and over the years we have got as much pleasure out of it as the children."
Long-time volunteer Yvonne Jacobs, who organised the surprise, said the scheme was mostly used by youngsters who live on the Stonegrove Estate and will now have nothing similar to attend.
Jonathon Lewington, 14, who has lived on the estate all his life and has been with the scheme since he was five, said: "I feel sad. I’ve spent nearly my whole life here and everyone is like a second family. I really don’t know what I’ll do next year.
"It kept me off the streets and taught me a lot of responsibility."
Mrs Jacobs said she and the other volunteers will soon retire, but would have considered keeping it going if it hadn’t become so difficult to secure funding.
She said the three or four-week summer scheme cost at least £7,000 each year to run and depended on fundraising to keep going.
Over the past ten years, Barnet Council also decreased its grant from £10,000 to £1,000.
Dadia Conti, children’s service manager for Community Barnet, who presented the certificates, said low-income families who benefited the most from the scheme will certainly be affected.
"It was a shock to me when I found out. These women did a fantastic job and the day definitely needs to be marked," she added.
"If these children have nowhere to go, then it could become a future worry for the police and council authorities."