Our Change Maker award recognises people who are the driving force behind an organisation with great impact.
“Tessa has brought us through many changes and without her passion and impetus we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. In fact, if it wasn’t for Tessa, Folkestone Sports Centre would probably no longer be operational; but instead it is thriving.”Lynn Smith, Folkestone Sports Centre trustee
Folkestone Sports Centre was set up by local members of the community, officially opening its doors in 1972. The ethos was, and still is to this day, to provide affordable sports and leisure facilities to everyone in the community. Tessa Stickler was a schoolgirl then, and still remembers taking part in fundraising activities for the sports centre. She used the facilities as a teenager, and since then her children and her grandchildren have gone on to do so as well.
She has now been working there for over 20 years, first working in marketing then as Deputy Manager and eventually General Manager, a post she has held for the past 12 years.
Since Tessa began managing the centre, there has been a period of continuous and impressive growth. In line with the changing needs of the community, she has driven ambitious changes that have expanded on the centre’s original mission with an added emphasis on serving those who suffer from learning or physical disabilities.
The latest phase of long-term renovation plans has seen a lift put in to the three-storey building, a sensory room installed, hoists and sensory lights added to the swimming pool, and the introduction of many inclusive sports and activities.
The impact of the centre has grown in line with these developments with more people from the local area, and increasingly further afield, accessing its services and facilities. Figures show that the number of users visiting the centre each month has grown from 21,000 to 38,000 since Tessa initiated this project for renovation and expansion in 2010.
Tessa has also developed a range of new programmes and services, both within the centre and out in the community, extending the centre’s reach and impact. The centre now offers apprenticeship and training schemes for local young people and works with many other organisations, such as MIND, to increase the health and wellbeing of all members of the community.
There are many projects and plans in place for continuing to expand and improve the services, facilities and opportunities offered by Folkestone Sports Centre. As an ever-burgeoning community hub that maintains inclusivity and accessibility at its heart, Tessa sees much room for continuing to build upon this.
There are plans to make the ski slope wheelchair accessible, to integrate the health and wellbeing centre into the main building, and to make more use of the outside grounds. The next big project will be to build a high ropes aerial trekking course and climbing wall that will provide another affordable and accessible activity for all.Folkestone Sports Centre Trust has been supported in its expansion and development by two loans from Charity Bank.