People's champion bows out after running Lancaster community hub for more than a decade

A community champion has retired after running Lancaster’s Barton Road Centre for more than a decade.
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Denise Nardone was recovering from breast cancer when she became the centre’s community co-ordinator at a financially challenging time.

“I’ve always loved working with people and when I became community co-ordinator, I wanted to make the centre welcoming and put systems in place to keep it going,” said Denise.

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There were nine groups using the centre when Denise was appointed which rose to 24 under her watch, among them the ‘2 Soups’ Lunch Club and tap dancing class which she taught.

Denise Nardone, right, at her retirement presentation at Barton Road Centre. Photo by Janine Bebbington.Denise Nardone, right, at her retirement presentation at Barton Road Centre. Photo by Janine Bebbington.
Denise Nardone, right, at her retirement presentation at Barton Road Centre. Photo by Janine Bebbington.

Unfortunately, one event which Denise couldn’t plan for was the Covid pandemic which was the biggest challenge she faced during her time at the centre.

“Even though we had to close, we had a community out there with lots of vulnerable people who were absolutely lost.”

Denise co-ordinated volunteers to provide support including dog walking, collecting prescriptions, and sending out activities to elderly people, and she organised tea and cake served in the centre’s back garden.

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A food bank collection point was also launched at the centre which is still going four years later, having collected more than 2,000 crates full of donations.

Most volunteers who helped during the pandemic have continued to provide support and enabled Denise to fulfil her aim of opening a café which offers cake and drinks from Tuesday to Thursday.

Denise produces traybakes for the café every week and will continue even when retired.

Now the centre is reopened fully, among the new regular activities are games afternoons and ‘crafternoons’.

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Crafting is one of Denise’s particular interests. She has her own spinning wheel, makes miniature teddy bears and produces machine embroidery designs available on

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Long before joining Barton Road Centre, Denise ran the Laughing Cat craft shop in North Road, opposite what had been her grandad Macari’s shop, of the ice cream making family.

Denise never wanted to be in the same job for 40 years and has had a varied working life since leaving Our Lady’s RC High School.

She started as a nurse cadet at the Royal Albert Hospital before becoming a mum. She later was a registered childminder and chair of Lancaster & Morecambe Childminders.

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In 1993, she retrained and worked at Lancaster University for nine years as departmental officer in student registry.

Her first step into community work was when she became a qualified youth worker across Lancaster, mainly on the Ryelands and Ridge estates, and she had an attachment to the fire service.

Denise has taught at the adult college and was working at Littledale Hall addiction treatment centre before her cancer diagnosis.

“My career has always been about people and I’ve loved seeing the community come together for special events and activities. Barton Road Centre is like a family.”

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Aged 66, Denise is one of the women who’s had to work six years more than expected before receiving her state pension, but she’s not one for putting her feet up even though she’s waiting for two knee replacements.

After a holiday in Scotland, she will stay connected to the centre as treasurer and a trustee, and as well as her crafting, intends to start playing the saxophone again.

Her role has become a job share between Pete French and Esther Griffiths.

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