Helpers celebrated at community shop

By Mark Elson in Local People

STAFF at a village community shop and cafe were thanked for their contribution with an afternoon tea last week (Tuesday, June 6) as part of National Volunteers’ Week.

The Brockweir and Hewelsfield Village shop and Café was launched 13 years ago and has some 60 volunteers, aged from their teens to an 89-year-old.

And it is appealing for more people to help out in a wide range of roles, including working behind the till, in the café, gardening, collecting orders, shelf stacking and maintenance.

“We are always looking for more to join,” says business manager Alison Macklin. “The project aims to be environmentally friendly, support local suppliers and over the years has garnered a great reputation for local food, including winning several awards, including the BBC Food and Farming Award for Best Local Supplier.

“There are great benefits to volunteering, including making new friends, keeping your mind and body active, giving something back to your community and being involved in the heart of the community, so you always know what’s going on.

“The volunteers are the heart of the shop, they are what makes the place so special. They each bring unique skills and views and we are incredibly lucky to have them because they work so hard and believe in the project and it makes working with them a privilege.”

She recently told the story behind the success of the store, which is seven miles from the nearest town and is registered as an industrial and provident society, to the Co-operative Retail Conference in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Ms Macklin explained how the environmentally friendly business, which includes a post office, has a solar voltaic roof and uses a heat pump to save energy costs.

Staffed completely by volunteers, more than 30 per cent of products sold come from the local community, while customers can also benefit from reverse credit and receive a bill for their shopping at the end of the month.

The store acts as a social hub for the village, running different events and food and wine tastings and giving away gift vouchers.

“We do all sorts of little things for the community. Our main aim is to put back any surplus into the community,” she said.

In spite of its active engagement of volunteers and local people, the store continues to face challenges from online retailers and delivery systems.

“More and more retailers are using local food. The important things remain colleagues and customers. Our challenges are very similar to yours,” she told delegates.

If you would like to help out at the community shop and cafe, contact Ms Macklin on 01291 689995 or via alisoninbrockweir@yahoo.co.uk

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