Oldham Community Leisure’s (OCL) centres might currently being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but John Carhart, 51, is still celebrating a very special milestone with the company.
This month, John enters his 30th year of working for OCL, in a job he says he loves as much now as when he first started over a quarter of a century ago. “I came to OCL as part of a placement scheme, designed to help people with disabilities and special needs get into work,” he says.
John is a local man, born and raised in Royton. A leisure attendant who works three days a week at Royton Leisure Centre, he jokes that he has even out lasted the old Royton Baths Sports Centre, which closed in 2015.
As well as helping to make sure the centre is spotless for everyone who uses it, John is a key helper in OCL’s Reach exercise referral classes, which are aimed at residents from the local community who have chronic heart and lung conditions or have had a stroke.
John enjoys greeting OCL’s Reach customers and has formed friendships with many over the years. “I help people who are new and show them what to do, as well as talking to the ones who’s been coming for a while, who I’ve got to know well. It’s a nice, fun environment,” he says. “Working with the customers, especially the older ones who’ve got medical conditions, is my favourite bit of the job.”
Jason Bailey, a Health and Wellbeing Officer at OCL, has worked alongside John for many years. He says: “John has natural flair for speaking to people and putting our older members at ease. Leisure centres are a very social environment, very interactive – for a lot of people they’re a home from home. John fits right in; Royton wouldn’t be the same without him.”
The doors may be temporarily closed to OCL’s leisure centres, but staff are making contact with all the Reach exercise referral scheme members and the Trust is working to provide online, at-home solutions to help keep its customers fit (and sane!) whilst the buildings are closed.
Chief executive, Stuart Lockwood, says: “OCL is here for the long-term and we will be publishing our online workouts in the very near future to provide Oldhamers with their fitness fix, so stay tuned to the website and social media platforms.
“Clearly the ‘new normal’ is unprecedented and it will be a challenge, especially as we don’t know when we will all turn a corner. In the meantime, we will be supporting the wider community effort in helping partner agencies to fight the consequences of this virus, so you will no doubt see some of our staff out and about doing worthwhile work until we come through the other side.”