Special guest Sir Lenny Henry CBE was the star at West Midlands housing association Nehemiah UCHA’s 10th birthday celebrations of its retirement scheme Henry Court, Charlton St, Dudley recently. The Dudley-born comedian, actor and writer Sir Lenny opened the retirement housing scheme back in 2005 and the scheme was named in honour of his mum Winifred, who was a member of the congregation of The Church of God of Prophecy, the founders of Nehemiah UCHA.

For the 10th birthday, The Lord Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Steve Waltho also helped Sir Lenny unveil a special commemorative plaque on the day together with some of the residents of Henry Court.

“We were all so excited and happy that Sir Lenny Henry returned to Henry Court ten years after officially opening the retirement scheme, to wish a big happy tenth birthday to ourselves and Henry Court’s residents,” says Llewellyn Graham, Chief Executive of Nehemiah UCHA.

“We can’t believe it’s been 10 years since the successful completion of Henry Court, which was developed by Nehemiah UCHA in partnership with Accord Housing Association and Dudley MBC.

“During the last 10 years, the elderly residents of Henry Court have enjoyed the specially designed safe and comfortable flats, which support independent living to ensure dignity and independence into old age.

“2015 marks the 10-year anniversary of Henry Court and we celebrated the occasion in style – thanks to the help of Sir Lenny.”

When asked about his last visit to Henry Court Sir Lenny Henry CBE commented: “Henry Court has a special connection for me, because it was named after my Mum! I remember filming there for Lenny's Britain - the sequence was supposed to be about "how the elderly cope in a care facility.” I was introduced first of all to a Jamaican man whose hearing aid was on the lowest setting it could possibly be at - the cameras rolled and all we could hear from behind his door was 'Hello? Hello? HELLO????' Then he was told to turn his hearing aid up - and when we actually got in the room we had to stop filming because all we could hear was Jimi Hendrix style squeaky feedback.  My favourite was the 60 something lady who'd invested in a folding bed - she made me sit next to her and proceeded to press buttons - at which point the bed moved in a decisive, passionate way, basically bending me forwards my head moving slowly towards my own man-bits. Very embarrassing and caught live on camera. These are very vivid memories to me - but I also remember a lot of people, eating Caribbean food, friendly staff and very happy people, sitting and chatting away and telling stories of yesterday. Thank you for these memories of Henry Court...”

Nehemiah UCHA has a portfolio of approximately 1,100 properties across the West Midlands, housing residents of all ages and from the predominantly African Caribbean, Asian and European multicultural communities of Dudley, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall.

Henry Court is one of the association’s 7 innovative retirement schemes and features 38 self-contained one and two-bedroom flats, each with a kitchen and bathroom with wheelchair accessible facilities. The range of facilities on-site include a lounge, dining room, library, laundry room, beauty salon, 24-hour emergency call alarm system, and a day care centre for the elderly community of Dudley which is run in partnership with the Dudley Befriending Service.

“Providing housing is about providing for the community,” comments Llewellyn Graham.

“We recognise that it is important to work closely with the community and we are proud of our close ties to the Dudley community, the church and other local community organisations and initiatives developed over the past 10 years since the opening of Henry Court by Sir Lenny in 2005.

Llewellyn Graham adds: “We feel very lucky and honoured to have Sir Lenny’s support during the 10-year birthday party. He is not only one of Dudley’s most famous residents but one of Britain’s best-known comedians, and we just know that, as he did in 2005 when he opened Henry Court, he’ll make the anniversary all the more special by being there in person.”