The history of Jennyruth Workshops goes back to 1989. However, its roots go back further to 1984 when Barrie and Sue Evason and their family returned to the area from their crofting business on the Isle of Skye. There, their 20 year old son Jonathan, who has Down’s Syndrome, had been fully involved and working in the business. Unfortunately, at that time, there was no meaningful daytime provision locally that would value Jonathan’s abilities and match the challenge of his working life on Skye. Barrie and Jonathan began doing woodwork together in their garden shed, making hand crafted products. In 1989 the hobby was turned into a little business, to earn money to buy materials, and given the name Jennyruth Workshops to commemorate one of Jonathan’s siblings, Jennifer Ruth, who had sadly died of sudden infant death syndrome as a baby on Skye. On leaving school, Jonathan’s younger downs syndrome siblings wanted to work alongside their dad and brother.
Other people recognised the great benefit to the young disabled workers and suggested to Barrie that the workshops offer places to others with a learning disability, where they could learn new skills and achieve similar job satisfaction. A lengthy consultation period and feasibility study followed, fund raising began, premises were found and building work by a band of volunteers transformed a shell into a productive craft workshop. In July 2004 Jennyruth Workshops was officially opened as a social enterprise by HRH the Countess of Wessex, with Barrie at the helm. From small beginnings with 6 learning disabled workers, Jennyruth Workshops has grown into the thriving social enterprise and business it is today. It has twice been presented with the Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award recognising its value in the community. In 2017, founders Barrie (by now retired) and Sue Evason were awarded MBEs for their dedication and commitment to adults with learning disabilities.