Former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball helps get Southwick Farm ready to reopen years after closure

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Charity chiefs enlisted the help of a former Sunderland skipper as final preparations are made ahead of the re-opening of a centre which aims to improve the lives of young people.

Development and training organisation Springboard is set to re-open Southwick Farm, near The Green, officially next month after it was closed several years ago.

Re-opening of Southwick Farm with Kevin Ball

Re-opening of Southwick Farm with Kevin Ball

Once open, young adults on Wearside will have the opportunity to access educational programmes and community development activities, as well as learn how to carry out domestic tasks such as cooking.

Work is underway tidying up the site of rubbish with members of the Take The Leap programme.

Bosses invited ex-Sunderland AFC player Kevin Ball, who is also an ambassador for Springboard, along to check on their progress.

Chief executive David Barker told the Echo: “Southwick Farm has been closed for about three or four years now and it’s great to be able to get it back open.

Re-opening of Southwick Farm

Re-opening of Southwick Farm

“This will really help people in the Sunderland community to develop the skills they need in their working lives.

“The site will be for a group of 15 young adults with autism to use as their college and training environment which encourages independent living.

“It’s going to be really important for those people as they develop.

“We want them to not just get qualifications, but further integrate them into the wider society.”

Re-opening of Southwick Farm

Re-opening of Southwick Farm

Former Black Cats midfielder Ball, who played for the club between 1990 and 1999 and is now an ambassador, said: “People have been talking a lot recently about the connection between the city and the club.

“It’s always been there but we’ve got to keep it strong and that helps with us showing support for programmes like this in the community.

“It’s brilliant to see and I’ve really enjoyed coming along to talk to the people involved today.

“They’ve got a lot of passion for this and I’m sure they’ll make it a success.

Re-opening of Southwick Farm with Kevin Ball

Re-opening of Southwick Farm with Kevin Ball

“I’ve told them to take photos so they can actually see the progression that they’re part of.”

Springboard is now looking for businesses to support the charity.

Fund-raising and events officer Charlotte Hunter said: “We need community support and business support for Southwick Farm.

“The project is going to need funding as we go forward.”

Those interesting in supporting Springboard through sponsorship should email marketing officer Amy Goodall at agoodall@springboard-ne.org for further information.

Re-opening of Southwick Farm

Re-opening of Southwick Farm