An enterprising Rotherham mum is using her entrepreneurial skills honed as a personal fitness trainer and aerobics instructor to help strengthen a healthy sense of community.

Last year, Jodie Goodall “swooped in” to take over the lease of a long vacant community centre in the Brecks area of Rotherham and bring it back to life as a hub of activity – hosting everything from her own fitness classes to indoor bowls, craft clubs and charity events.

But now the hub on Brecks Crescent needs help if it is to continue to be a base for the local community.

Jodie, a director of the JRG Fitness and The Brecks Community Hub CIC, explained: “I used to hire the space for fitness classes and then the long-term tenant called time on their stewardship of the community centre and as a result of the pandemic the centre remained out of action for a few years.

“I’d always dreamed of owning my own gym and fitness centre so I swooped in and took on the lease of the building. Since then I have worked hard to bring the hub back to life and a centre for the community.

“Now we need extra pairs of hands to keep building on what we have.”

Other uses include baby and toddler sessions, classes for yoga, pilates and karate, and a diabetes support group. It operates as a community interest company – a not-for-profit organisation with the money generated ploughed back into the Brecks Community Hub.

JRG Fitness and Jodie’s Aerobics started eight years ago when Jodie trained in providing group exercise following the birth of her child. It also meant learning about how to start and run a business, in this case, a social enterprise.

The Social Enterprise Exchange has provided support around structuring the business and help with finding funding. The ERDF-funded programme promotes social entrepreneurship and provides support for start-up and established social enterprises through grants, mentoring and specialist advice.

Jodie said: “It’s always been in my nature to help others, whether that’s through helping people with fitness or training, or in previous work helping refugees with their English.

“With the classes and the hub I like the fact that I’m bringing people in, bringing people together, using the space. The more people that use it, you feed off that buzz.”

Whilst rewarding, Jodie is conscious of the effect that taking on the management of a community centre alongside running her own business has had on her own health. She is looking for more volunteers to help keep the space open and available for the local community.

“Even if it is just opening up, making teas and coffees, a bit of cleaning or playing games,“ Jodie said.

“I don’t want to give the lease back but I have to think about me and burning out.

“A volunteer caretaker would be bloody amazing.”

Volunteers’ Week recently took place at the start of June. This year, as well as thanking people who already volunteer, the focus was on inspiring more people to take up volunteering.

As well as helping others, volunteering can help improve volunteers’ wellbeing too. It can help with learning new skills, gaining experience and boosting confidence.

The Brecks community will be on hand to support new volunteers. Recent activity has seen a large overgrown area of the site cleared by a group of volunteers from Voluntary Action Rotherham – the idea is to create an area for a community of growers and gardeners. A skilled woodworker also volunteered their time to make a new bench for outside the centre.

Jodie concluded: “People really like the space and I always hear comments about how good it is to see it back open. We just need people to keep using it, and more groups to use it. And that means we need more volunteers.”