WHEN Andy Kyle left school at 16, a severe speech impediment meant he was virtually unable to speak and facing an uncertain future.
More than a decade later, and thanks to an Oxford charity, the 27-year-old has left his problems behind.
But the Pathway Workshop – which employs people with physical and learning difficulties – says it may have to close, unless extra funding is found soon.
Mr Kyle, of Abingdon, said: “This place has improved my confidence so much.
“When I came here, I couldn’t speak at all and I went to four different schools. But now people here ask me what to do next. They come to me.”
The Blackbird Leys charity started 25 years ago, training and employing people to make handmade furniture and other wooden pieces. It now employs 17 men, and regular customers include Honda, Blenheim Palace and the Templars Square shopping centre in Cowley.
Frank Moxham, 33, of Blackbird Leys, said: “I came here in 2003 and have worked here ever since.
“I lost 90 per cent of my hearing in my left ear and 70 per cent from my right and have been told it is continuing to deteriorate.
“Without this place, I don’t know where I’d be.”
But with outgoings in the region of £250,000 a year, trustees say if between £50,000 and £100,000 is not found, Pathway may close.
Head of trustees Bill Pattison said: “We used to receive 80 per cent of that money from charitable trusts and grants.
“But that has declined over the years. People just don’t have the money to hand out that they once did.
“Now 80 per cent of our income is from what the guys produce. And, unfortunately, they can’t produce enough to cover our shortfall.”
Another £40,000 is needed each year to run the charity, but grants and fundraising activities are not bringing in enough.
Pathway applies for up to 200 grants a year from various sources, but says fewer than 30 bids produce any money.
Mr Pattison said: “We take guys who don’t have any self worth and we build their confidence until they are capable of working.
“They are a close-knit group and the changes we have seen in them are incredible.
“But this is a desperate appeal. We need people to know we are here and we need them to help us, or else we will close.”
To donate to the workshop, call 01865 714111 or visit pathway-workshop.co.uk