Kings Norton resident Mike Bennett, who has been the Chair of Hampstead House in Birmingham since 2005 headed for the top with prospective MP for Birmingham Northfield, Rachel Maclean with an invitation from Prime Minster David Cameron to Number 10 Downing Street.
Since opening its doors in the late 1940s the well-loved centre has been a vital community hub, providing services integral to the West Heath area. Now, 1000 people a week attend the centre which is at the heart of an area where this support is needed.
Since joining as Chair of the Board of Directors, Mike has worked tirelessly to expand the services that West Heath community centre offers. With a background in youth work, he understands how important having local facilities are. “A community centre like ours is a cradle to grave destination", said Mike. "It’s on the doorsteps of thousands of local residents, whether it’s young parents who use the playgroup and other groups for families, or elderly residents who might feel isolated and alone, there is something for everyone.”
Mike is a firm believer that providing local services in the community is essential for preventing the sorts of issues that can lead to crime, family breakdown and other problems. "If parents are supported and educated, if families have activities on their doorsteps, they have more of a chance of giving their kids a good start in life" he said. "This benefits the whole community and saves the taxpayer money in the long run.
"That's why it’s such a shame that West Heath Library has been closed by the Labour Council, despite having money allocated to it to rebuild it on the Hampstead House site. This would have brought local services together in one location in a purpose built facility.”
Stalwart community leader Mike also finds time to be a Scout Leader, and has been running the local troop that meets at Hampstead House for 40 years.
Rachel Maclean, prospective Conservative MP for Northfield, who accompanied Mike to Number 10, said: "As a former Scout Leader myself, I know that the work Mike does in Scouting, as well as at Hampstead House, is incomparable for building character and life skills. Scouts get a great start in life, I've seen for myself how it changes young people's lives through challenge and adventure. Local young people are very lucky to have the opportunity to take part in Scouting due to volunteers like Mike and his fellow leaders.
"David Cameron is a Prime Minister who recognises and values the often unsung work that our community leaders like Mike do. He's truly a local hero, so it was fantastic that he was recognised for his incredible dedication and that he had the opportunity to talk about the work he's doing locally.”