Joyce Thomas MBE has done many things for the good of Ross-on-Wye; she helped to establish the Ross Advisory Service - which later became a part of the CAB, she was the driving force behind setting up the Dean Hill Playpark, and she campaigned for more frequent cervical cancer smear tests and breast cancer mammograms in the 1970s. But Mrs Thomas says she is particularly proud of her achievement in creating the Ross Playschool Playgroup.
The playgroup had its annual general meeting recently, and Mrs Thomas attended. She told the Gazette that she had met new parents and was extremely proud to share the group’s history.
In 1970, Mrs Thomas, as an urban district Councillor, had seen that there was one other playgroup in Herefordshire, and believed that one was needed in Ross-on-Wye. “I thought it was important that children learn to play together from an early age,” said Mrs Thomas. “Children from all walks of life could attend.”
She decided to hold a meeting, and asked if any local residents would be interested in using this service, to attend. Approximately 300 people turned out to show their support.
From that meeting, a management committee was formed, and Joyce was the Chair.
The committee’s first task was to determine where the playgroup would be based, and the Hausa Huts on Gloucester Road, was decided upon, where the committee paid a peppercorn rent.
“And so, the children started to come,” said Mrs Thomas. “We had an excellent manager and management committee and we all wanted the playgroup to do well. We’ve always had staff that really care about the children.”
The playgroup grew and grew, and before long, the committee needed to find a new home, preferably with a playground so the children could all play outside. They moved to the Larruperz Centre, which is where the group remains today.
About 60 children attend the group today. “It’s one of Ross’ successes,” Mrs Thomas proudly stated. “It’s one of the best things I ever did.”