A CHARITY dedicated to reducing the harmful impact of drugs and alcohol on people’s lives is going from strength to strength – and ready to offer more help.

Open Road, Clacton, has been transformed following a successful bid for £80,000 funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

The cash has been spent on extensive building work and general improvements to the centre, based in Wellesley Road, Clacton.

Mark Shillaker, centre manager, is delighted with the revamp and is now ready to take on more volunteers.

He said: “The primary factor is, it’s just been a vastly improved facility.

“We have a separate building for our needle exchange and we have much better facilities.

“We had our computer network upgraded and it’s a much nicer building – it feels like a much calmer building.

“It has made the place feel a bit more business-like.”

Mr Shillaker said he thought clients appreciated it too.

Activities at Open Road, which has been running from its current base for 12 years, include structured treatment programmes.

Some of these programmes include access to professional counselling and complementary therapies like shiatsu massage and acupuncture.

There is also a drop-in facility for service users to relax informally and chat to volunteers, plus support groups aimed at improving social skills, anger management and relapse prevention.

Mr Shillaker said: “We also offer targeted support for family members such as parents and partners, and we work with other local charities and agencies to provide as much support and consistency as possible for our service users.”

Currently, there is a core team of eight people who work at the centre and about five volunteers.

Mr Shillaker added: “We are always looking for volunteers. We work with Tendring Community Voluntary Services to try and recruit volunteers.

“It can be quite a challenge.

“All we want from people is commitment and a willingness to not mind what they do.

“It’s not glamorous, life-saving stuff. Like any busy charity we have admin to do, front of house – there’s a real mixture of stuff.”

Open Road receives funding from the Essex Drug and Alcohol Action Team, North East Essex NHS, the Lottery, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, Tendring Council and charitable trusts, among others.

Its latest cash boost was a £50 donation, raised by MP Douglas Carswell and the Conservative group in Tendring.

No formal qualifications or requirements are needed to become a volunteer at the centre.

The Clacton branch is just one of a number of Open Road centres in Essex. There are also sites in Colchester, Braintree, Burnham-on-Crouch and Basildon.

Outreach services are provided in Harwich and Jaywick.

If you are interested in getting involved, call 01255 434186 for more information.