It’s a much loved song, but for a special band of brothers, the words of Amazing Grace now have an extra resonance.
It was sung to help celebrate their freedom from drug or alcohol addiction and was a stunning way to launch this year’s annual celebration at Yeldall Manor, a rehabilitation centre based in Hare Hatch, near Twyford.
Held in glorious sunshine on Saturday July 6, as part of its annual open day, it was an opportunity to celebrate the centre’s pioneering work.
The charity has been providing residential rehabilitation and detoxification to men with long-term drug and/or alcohol dependencies for more than 35 years. When participants graduate from the programme, they are then supported as they go back out into the community, helping them to stay addiction free.
And the Christian-run centre knows the programme works – some of its staff are graduates.
At the celebration service Yeldall’s director, Dr Andy Partington, welcomed guests before introducing a parade of residents and ex-residents. As the band played a modern rendition of Amazing Grace, each of the men entered the marquee holding placards.
The front side summed up their story, such as being addicted for more than 20 years. Then, to large cheers and applause from the 300-strong crowd, the boards were turned around to reveal how long they had been clean for. This ranged from days to years, depending on how long they had been at Yeldall.
“This is a really significant day,” said Andy when the parade had finished and the supporters’ applause had died down. “It’s about reconnecting with the people who make Yeldall happen.”
Ex-residents and staff were encouraged to stand up so they could be acknowledged for their efforts.
Andy came to Yeldall three years ago and has been its director for just over a year. As part of his speech, he hailed the work that his predecessors had carried out.
“You come into a place like this and realise you’re standing on the shoulders of giants,” he explained.
Psalm 103 was also read, because, Andy said, it was “My statement of what we’re here to do this afternoon – we’re here to thank God for his blessing on our lives. Our lives may not be perfect right now but
we have lots to be thankful for.”
The celebration formed the spine of the annual open day. The fun started with a fete with stalls such as beat the goalie and skittles. Visitors could also explore the work of Chissock Woodcraft, which offers bespoke and restored furniture business and is run by a former Yeldall resident.
The workshop was open showcasing some of the beautiful chairs, tables and furniture made on site.
Food included the traditional hog roast and a strawberry and cream tea, with strawberries donated
by Gray’s Farm in Wokingham.
While Yeldall’s work can be funded by local drug or alcohol services, many residents’ stays are only possible through donations to the charity’s Good Samaritan fund and the open day is one of the ways in which it can invite supporters to see what is happening and raise funds.
A sponsored walk from London to Yeldall in May saw 39 people raise an astonishing £20,000 for the fund.
“The Good Samaritan bursary fund enables us to create opportunities that people wouldn’t otherwise have,” Andy explained at the open day.
For more information, or to make a donation, log on to www.yeldall.org.uk.