Clubhouse Tributes

I first met Belinda when she was a key member of the Clubhouse Steering Group. She made it very clear to me that the Group were in control of the future of the clubhouse and as a Housing Association we had better get it right!

She could be a very strong person and she gave the other members of the steering group the courage to push forward their vision of what a clubhouse should be.

Belinda was fun to work with and she was a very kind and private person.

Once the Clubhouse opened she withdrew and concentrated on her work and her dogs. We never knew when she might appear at the clubhouse, just to check it was still up to standard! She wouldn't stay long and always left me wanting more of her company.

I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear of her death. I had only recently been told that she was back in hospital.

Aylesbury Clubhouse owes its existence to the vision of people like Belinda and the Steering Group members, I can't quite believe that she won't just turn up sometime to keep an eye on what is going on.

I learnt a lot from her, she made me challenge how I thought about mental illness and gave me a set of standards. Whenever I may be involved in the development or management of future services the standard will be 'would this have been good enough for Belinda?'

I am so sorry her life was so short but feel privileged to have known her.

We will all miss her and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.

Ann Lee [formerly Special Projects Manager, Hightown Praetorian Housing Association]

from the Bucks Herald, 25 April 2001

FURTHER to your tribute to Belinda Reynolds on the front page of your paper last week, I would like to enlighten readers of another aspect of work Belinda undertook in our community.

She was one of a small band of people who were instrumental in the development of Aylesbury Clubhouse. For two years Belinda worked with others, quietly in the background, doing much of the preparation work necessary to ensure the Clubhouse became reality for people in the Aylesbury Vale.

Thanks to her hard work we now have a thriving Clubhouse which offers support and meaningful activity to over 140 people. Belinda will be remembered by me and many here as an energetic campaigner for people with mental health problems. It is a great loss to our community and she will be missed by all who knew her. In my line of work I meet many special people but Belinda stood out, among even these, as a shining star.

My thoughts are with her family and friends, and when we have finished our mourning let's use the example that Belinda has set us to change our world for the better.

Jane Waterhouse [Clubhouse Manager] from the Bucks Herald, 25 April 2001

Belinda was my friend, and that was something special, but using the past tense to describe 'B', to those who knew her well, is very difficult because it's hard to believe that Belinda is dead.

We first met when both of us were in-patients on Kimmeridge Ward at the Tindal Centre, many moons ago. We progressed to an occupational therapy group, first at Byron and then at the Queen's Park Centre. From that we were invited to an open meeting about something called 'a clubhouse' but no one could tell us what kind of animal, vegetable or mineral 'a clubhouse' was, so we just had to go along to that first meeting.

B and I were so inspired by what we heard at that meeting. The Clubhouse movement was portrayed in terms which could not fail to catch our imaginations, and so we pushed our way to the front of the queue to put our names down to be on the Steering Group. Belinda, along with the other members of the Steering Group, threw herself into the project and helped The Aylesbury Clubhouse to become the success it is today.

But there is more to B than that. Behind the smoke screen B put out to protect herself, and others, lay a heart of pure gold. Those of us who managed to make our way through the smoke found a vulnerable, loveable and caring individual who became special to us all.

B fought her mental health problems, took on the responsibility for socialising dogs for Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and then Franci came into her life as her very own dog. B was passionate about Franci and trained him for agility competitions. I will never forget the evening B came to visit me when I was back in Tindal and brought the first prize medal she and Franci had won at a recent competition. The pride she had for Franci's achievement overflowed from her but my pride was for Franci and Belinda because they had won that first prize as a team. Later B took on another dog, Kayleigh, which she also had hopes for in agility trials.

Belinda's achievements did not stop there. Belinda found herself a job and despite her mental health problems worked successfully up to her most recent problems. Belinda hid her last bout of illness from everyone, until life just became too much for her and she was re-admitted to Kimmeridge Ward. By coincidence, I also was admitted to Portland Ward, also at the Tindal Centre, at about the same time and we were able to catch up with each other's news. It became clear to me, talking to Belinda, that she had been struggling with her mental health problems for a long, long time and really saw no end in sight. I could see how much Belinda hurt, how tired she had become of the hourly struggle she had so bravely fought and how much she wanted to be relieved of her heavy burden.

This, however, did not prepare me for the terrible shock and grief that l, and many others, felt when we heard of Belinda's death. Nothing can bring her back to me; nothing will fill the hole in my life that will always be reserved for her. I will always miss B, and I am proud to say that she was and will always be remembered as my friend, whom I loved and cared deeply for.

Au revoir Belinda, I believe we will meet again some day but also goodbye, because that is the shortening of God Be With You.

With love, Celia

P.S. You are in my computer under Odds and Ends because that is where I keep my most special and precious files and memories.