A CARLISLE charity held a joint celebration as it marked both its birthday and the refurbishment of its respite house in Kingstown.

Carlisle Mencap, on California Road in Kingstown, has been offering vital support in the city for 23 years.

But the birthday wasn’t the only cause for celebration on Friday, July 12, as it also marked the relaunch of respite home California House following a massive £200,000 refurbishment project.

Volunteers and guests celebrated the day with a garden party, with food and drink in the sunshine.

Carlisle Mencap has a garden party every year, as a way to raise money for California House. As this year was a special party they invited three exceptional guests.

Mayor of Carlisle, Marilyn Bowman, officially opened the house with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, and Christine Bowditch, Carlisle Mencap chairwoman, also attended.

Sheila Gregory, chief executive of Carlisle Mencap, said: “Over the last 20 years the needs of our guests have changed dramatically.

“We now have many members with complex physical needs and anxiety. It was essential we provide the perfect surroundings for their stay.

“We know that the changes we have made improve the house. People enjoy their visits very much.”

The huge amount of money raised went towards a single floor extension and improvements throughout the house.

A sensory room, a fully accessible kitchen dining area, a utility room, and a therapeutic and sensory bathroom with a whirlpool bath are some of the new additions to the house in Kingstown.

The sensory room, in the old kitchen, is packed with toys and a projector that allows guests to interact with different sounds and sights.

Mrs Bowman said: “I was delighted to attend Mencap’s birthday celebrations and to cut the ribbon to open their newly refurbished facility.

“Mencap provide respite care for families in need of support and I have the highest praise for their highly dedicated staff.

“The new-look home will further enhance their care and will make the visits more enjoyable for their guests.”

The garden party was held in the newly revamped California House garden after volunteers from Carlisle College and Gilford Centre spruced it up during the Give a Day to the City week. Volunteers cleaned the pond, painted the fence, and planted flowers in preparation for the big day.

Sheila recently won the person of the year award at The Cumberland News’ Community Heroes Awards, for her work with Mencap.

She said: “I just do what I do but it’s nice to be recognised. I am very shocked but quite delighted. It is nice to be thanked, it is an essential service that we provide.”

California House provides respite for five adults with learning disabilities year-round - guests can stay for a weekend or longer. It also gives parent carers a break.

Their stay at the house helps to develop their independent living skills as well as their social and emotional skills.

They do this through activities such as shopping trips, swimming, cycling and trips to the cinema.