Banbury RAF Association Club moving forward with plans for refurb and expansion of services
The Banbury RAF Association Club recently reopened with plans for the refurbishment of its building and the expansion of its services to include hot food within 18 months.
Chris Adams, the chair of the RAF Association Branch, spoke with the Banbury Guardian about its plans for the future after the club's reopening from the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Banbury RAF Association Branch is a charity, which works with the RAF Association Club, which is a business. Mr Adams took over earlier this year as the chair of the charity side of the association.
Mr Adams, who is a serving warrant officer with over 43 years in the Royal Air Force, said: "Now it's my turn to give back to the RAF community. I'm proud and honoured to do so."
Paul Gruner-Overgaard serves as the chair of the RAF Association Club of Banbury.
Mr Adams spoke about Project Astra, which is the repurposing of the whole RAF Association building located in Newland House, 46a Broad St, Banbury.
The expansion of the services offered from the building will involve offering services to the whole military and the wider Banbury community, not just the Royal Air Force.
Mr Adams said: "If we don't evolve we're dead. We're going to focus on military veterans welfare. But we are expanding beyond that to a wider welfare provision in the community.
"The idea is in 18 months or so to offer a tri-service welfare hub. Even a bit of pastoral care too. People can come in for a chat with some of our welfare specialists.
"We're trying to enhance the welfare provision for all of Banbury."
They hope to start providing some of the welfare provision within a month, and encourage area veterans of any military background along with local residents to pop in for a chat. The Banbury RAF Association has three welfare officers.
Mr Adams added: "What we would like is to have a drop-in centre where veterans can come have a chat with a welfare professional within the military charity environment.
"If you have a problem come and talk to someone. It's OK, not to be OK.
"It's really important Banbury knows this is a welfare hub for all of Banbury, not just the veterans. We're just a vehicle for the town. Everyone is welcome here."
Mr Adams said the club will also be making a big push to expand its current 200 plus membership over the next year.
The club is a members only club, but anyone is encouraged to come and visit, and if they like it to join after a few visits. There are two types of membership, which include one for military veterans and another for the general public.
The RAF Association Club reopened on July 23 after being closed the better part of 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are open in the evenings from 7 to 11pm four days a week - Thursday to Sunday.
The club is sometimes open earlier in the day for special events like the Battle of Britain event held on September 11.
Mr Adams said: "Ultimately we are a four night a week social venue for everyone. We're hoping to expand it to six days a week.
"We are the only members club left in Banbury and everyone is welcome. We need to move away from that working man's club model."
As part of the expansion of the club's services they hope to forge business partnerships with some local restaurants in order to offer hot food such as a Sunday lunch service.
He added: "We want to refurb all three stories of the building. It will take time and money, but we're fully confident we can make it happen.
"We are a force for good, not just for the veterans of Banbury, but the whole community."