Emmaus Ipswich celebrates first birthday in charity shop based in former The Dales Pub
- Credit: Archant
Going to school, moving into training or further education, starting a career and earning enough money to buy a home.
It’s a path that most of us will follow, but it is also one that many people in Ipswich are shut off from or feel like they are not capable to walk down.
But one charity in the town is working to help vulnerable people through that journey by giving them an opportunity that they may have never had before.
Emmaus Ipswich is this week celebrating its first birthday in the former Dales Pub in Dales Road.
In the past year it has given more than 40 people who are either homeless or long-term unemployed volunteering placements in its shop.
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The charity takes donations of near enough anything, from clothes to furniture and books, and gives a new lease of life to worn items by mending or improving them, known as ‘up-cycling’.
Volunteers help with all areas of the business, giving them experience, skills and confidence to move into paid employment.
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Claire Staddon, operations manager, said: “It’s all very much about self-esteem and we have got several people who are surprised that they add value.
“Some of our volunteers had a poor education, or came through the care system, and don’t have that social network that a lot of us have.
“It’s very hard to keep trying when you fall over and there’s no one to help you up.”
When the charity first proposed to take over the building, owned by the East of England Co-op, some residents launched a petition against the change-of-use from a pub.
However Mrs Staddon said the response from the community since Emmaus moved in had been “incredible”.
The number of the donations has continued to grow since the shop opened, and now it is completely stacked full of stock.
“This is all Ipswich people’s generosity and a lot of this stuff they could sell privately and make money for themselves, but people are being kind and generous and donating really good quality items to sell and benefit people who need it the most,” Mrs Staddon said.
The charity is part of the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership, and works alongside the organisations within the network to ensure needy people in the town are supported in the best possible way.
Mrs Staddon said: “We also work closely with the job centre where they are working with people who have been unemployed for a long time and have lost all confidence in themselves to be employable.
“It’s the same with homelessness. Having your own space is very much part of your identity as a human being, and to lose that means you can lose faith in yourself.
“We are here to be an enabling organisations to help people improve themselves and show that they can add value and they are worth it.”
She added: “We are the family for some who haven’t got anyone else.”
The charity has benefitted from grants from the North West Ipswich Big Local Trust and the North West Ipswich Committee to get the shop up and running. Mrs Staddon said: “That’s really a testament to them recognising our added value to the community and we hope we will make them proud.”
The business is almost bringing in enough income to make it self-sufficient, which is the charity’s ultimate goal.
It has also secured funding to hire a full-time support worker to help volunteers rebuild their lives and get them into employment.
Looking toward the future, Mrs Staddon said she was planning to transform the shop’s garden into a nursery to grow plants.
This will allow volunteers to get their hands dirty, and also bring in extra income through the sale of the produce.
“Outdoors is a very important place for people’s mental health and wellbeing,” Mrs Staddon said. “So it enriches the opportunities for volunteers to participate in a way that benefits them as much as us.”
Gill Dibben is retail manager of the store, which also features a coffee shop.
She said: “It’s been an amazing journey and I can’t believe we have managed to achieve so much in 12 months.
“It’s been really good from a retail background to see the shop grow and blossom and to be now, what I think, is a great part of community life in the area.”
On August 2 the charity is hosting a vintage market at Otley Hall, which is free to attend.