FAMILIES who forged friendships at a children's centre will mark its closure with a farewell bash.

Parents and children will dispel the 'doom and gloom' of funding cuts by enjoying a party at South Abingdon Children's Centre, before it shuts at the end of March.

Centre volunteer Fiona Habermehl has arranged activities and games on March 18, in tribute to treasured services that could eventually 'rise from the ashes'.

She said: "We didn't want this moment to pass without celebrating the work the centre has done. It's affected so many people's lives in positive ways. A community comes about as a result of meeting people here, you feel a part of something. It's a big thing to say goodbye to.

"The centre is really valuable. It's only just hitting some parents [that it's closing] and they won't be able to go anymore."

The Steventon resident runs a weekly cookery session at the centre but will take her last lesson later this month - at least for the foreseeable future - while a separate group works to salvage the centre.

Occupational therapist Mrs Habermehl, who has volunteered at the centre for five years, hoped the party would be 'goodbye for now' rather than 'goodbye forever'.

She said: "It will never be the same again - but as the community and volunteers crowd round, something phoenix-like will rise from the ashes. It's doom and gloom that it's shutting, but there is hope we can keep something going."

The free party will run at the centre in Caldecott Chase from 1pm until 3pm.

North Abingdon mum-of-two Margaret Paz, 40, said her three-year-old daughter Scarlet 'absolutely loves' going to the cookery class.

The childminder said she was 'sad and completely shocked' when Oxfordshire County Council announced it was pulling funding for most of the county's children's centres.

Last month South Abingdon Community Group secured a lifeline in its bid to save the centre, after Abingdon Town Council pledged to give the group £30,000 a year for the next three years.

The cash will be funded by a council tax rise of £2.50 at band D, provided that the group produces a viable business plan.

Town councillor Samantha Bowring, who set up the community group, said she is 'hopeful' the centre will eventually reopen.

She will bid at the end of March for a grant from the county council, which set aside cash to help community groups sustain children's centres.

Mrs Bowring said: "The centre is not going to be what it was, but we really hope to keep volunteer sessions [like the cookery class]."

The council will bring in a new targeted service to continue core support for vulnerable children, at locations including The Net in Abingdon.