A POLE dancing class, a toy library and a "knit and natter" group are just some of the community groups using a centre which has undergone a £200,000 refurbishment.

Volunteers who helped raise the money were celebrating the official opening of the revamped Genesis Project centre in Stockton on Saturday.

The project is the result of seven years of collaboration between a dedicated team of volunteers, professional contractors and the £200,000 of funding from grants and fundraising efforts.

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While being refurbished the centre, which is in the grounds of Yarm Road Methodist Church, has welcomed fitness clubs, a community gardening initiatives, and IT club, youth clubs, carpet bowls, and a lunch club, as well as the pole dancing and knit and natter group.

It has also been popular for parties.

Roberto Viana, former minister of Yarm Road Methodist Church and the visionary behind the project, said: "We want Genesis to be the birthplace for new ideas, somewhere we can celebrate the diversity of our local community.

"It has taken us seven years to complete the works. Now it is time to spread the word.

"We're open to approaches from all local community groups, irrespective of age, culture and spiritual inclination.

"If your group is bringing the people of Stockton together in a peaceful, collaborative and non-politicised manner, we want to hear from you.”

The fully refurbished facility is now complete with new entrance, toilets, heating, windows, flooring and insulation, IT and a kitchen.

Mr Viana said: "A long-running and sustained volunteer fundraising effort from the Yarm Road Church congregation has also been instrumental in our success.

"This project is a shining example of what can be achieved when local volunteers and supportive funding groups pour their time, skills and resources into the community.”

James Wharton, MP for Stockton South, said: "This is a great example of a beautiful older building being brought up to date by an engaged and active community. I look forward to continuing to support their work, and even more being done to bring this valuable local asset into the 21st century."

Funding was secured from Stockton Borough Council, the Methodist Church and Landfill Community Fund. There are more ambitious future plans for the centre, if further funding can be secured.