Emotional day as Sunderland home’s doors shut

Donna Gardiner (centre) with Geraldine Plinkett (left) and Audrey Turnbull (right) of the Donna Claire Venture.
Donna Gardiner (centre) with Geraldine Plinkett (left) and Audrey Turnbull (right) of the Donna Claire Venture.
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A LIFELINE respite home will close its doors for the final time today.

Emotions were high when Donna Claire Venture co-founders Geraldine Plunkett and Audrey Turnbull bid farewell to the Seaburn home’s final five guests this morning.

Geraldine said: “Every Monday for the last six or seven weeks have been really traumatic for us because we’ve had to say goodbye to guests leaving for the last time.

“It’s been very, very hard for us all and very difficult for our guests and their families.”

In October, the devastated bosses broke the news to families that the cash-strapped holiday home would have to close its doors just days before Christmas.

With rising costs and local authority cutbacks, funds dried up, forcing Geraldine and Audrey to make the heart-breaking decision to close the centre after devoting 28 years of their lives to the venture.

Audrey said: “I just can’t visualise life without it. It’s terrible. The public have been marvellous and just can’t understand why we have to close.”

The lifeline holiday home for people with severe disabilities came under threat in 2008 when the Echo launched a campaign to save it.

Readers dug deep and within months £100,000 was raised.

However, the funds have now dried up, leaving the home running short of about £2,500 a week.

“It’s all down to the funds and there’s nothing we can do about that,” Geraldine said.

“The public have been fantastically supportive of us and we are so grateful for everything they have done over the years.”

As well as providing people with disabilities a holiday, it also gives relations who devote their lives to looking after loved ones with a much-needed break from the constant care.

Geraldine said: “Their families look after them day and night and they deserve an accolade for this because it is relentless.”

The Seaburn Terrace home will now go on the market with money made being pledged to charitable organisations.

The charity shop on Sea Road will remain open into the new year until the stock is sold off.

Geraldine said: “Through all of this we have had faith and belief and we very much felt that something needed to be done and we had the faith and trust to get on and do it.

“We don’t know what the future holds and it is sad and heart-breaking, but we’ve got to get on with it.

“We are proud of what we have achieved over the years and we can say we are very fortunate to have achieved what we set out to do.

“We’ve never compromised our principles or ethos to always place the guests at the centre of everything and we have made many friends along the way.

“Our guests and their relations are our family and we will definitely stay in touch.”