#VolunteersWeek2020 – A round-up of our virtual week of celebration and a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteer stars!

This week we’ve been celebrating #VolunteersWeek2020 and saying a special thank you to volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our six virtual Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. These incredible volunteers have worked tirelessly to support local vulnerable people, and those self-isolating or shielding, helping with medication collections, essential shopping, or simply befriending to lessen feelings of isolation, loneliness and uncertainty during these difficult times.

We’ve heard so many heart-warming stories of kindness, companionship and newfound friendships. We’ve also heard how volunteers have gone the extra mile to help people to feel a little bit of normality during lockdown, including deliveries of Friday night fish and chips! Volunteers have responded with such positivity and we’ve seen overwhelming acts of kindness.

As Volunteers Week draws to a close, we look back at just a handful of some of the wonderful stories shared by volunteers and our staff. We also want to pass on the many warm messages of thanks that we’ve received on behalf of the people supported. Many have said how incredibly grateful they are to have had the support of volunteers through these uncertain and difficult times.

On Wednesday, Becky, our Small Groups Officer, shared a story about Stourbridge Covid-19 Community Support Group, a brand new mutual aid group that has been working with us since the beginning of lockdown. The group has more than 200 volunteers making shopping trips, collecting medications or offering companionship over the phone. Read the full post here

We’ve shared the stories of volunteer stars, Sheila, Phil, Sam, Sharon, Francesca, Dave, Jayne and Steve, talking about their volunteer experience and how it’s made a difference their lives and the lives of others. Here are some of those stories…

 “I was quickly matched up with three people who needed help with their shopping.  When I first rang to introduce myself, I was a little nervous but we soon started to get to know each other.  We have now got into a lovely little weekly routine starting with a chat for the shopping lists and a chance to find out a little bit more about each other.  My Mum is vulnerable and lives in Shrewsbury so when we went into lockdown I knew that my sister would take care of her but I felt a bit useless. So, I started this process to help where I could.  What I didn’t expect was to find three different, lovely people who are so grateful of my help but, in turn, have also helped me through these strange and unprecedented times by giving me a sense of purpose.

I feel like we have sailed a path through these stormy waters together and we will keep going until we are able to step out onto a safer shore having battled this storm in the best way we can, with care and kindness for each other. We will never forget one another and I hope one day, when all this is over, we may be able to sit down and have a proper conversation over a nice cup of tea.”

Sheila Jones, volunteer.

Read more…

Nothing is too much trouble for Phil, and over the last 10 weeks, he has supported a number of people with their weekly shopping trips along with undertaking on average two medicine collection runs per week.

“I have volunteered for Operation Santa with my wife Sarah and when I heard Dudley CVS needed help during this current crisis I offered my help.

I was allocated an area and my role is mainly collecting and delivering prescriptions for vulnerable residents living in my local area. I’ve also been asked to help with some shopping and I shop for one lovely old couple every Thursday Morning.

I have earned the role of  ‘go-to source’ for any emergency requests as I am always willing and happy to drop everything and get the job done, and now have the nickname Thunderbird 1!

I have enjoyed meeting people living in my local area and also establishing a good relationship with local pharmacies. To have a sense of purpose during these difficult times has had a very positive effect on me.”

Read more… 

Volunteer, Francesca, said:

“Volunteering has been good for me too. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it’s been very rewarding.

I’ve met some lovely people that (although our ages may differ) have become good friends. Being forwarded emails of thanks makes me realise how fortunate I am to be able to help others and not be reliant on the kindness of strangers – I try my best for them and it’s good to know they are happy with my efforts. I’ve even enjoyed the shopping experience – it’s been challenging at times, but it’s provided some humorous moments in these strange times.

Equally, the people I’ve delivered to have been so kind and appreciative, it’s put a smile on my face on many days. They may be “stuck” in their houses, but their strength and resilience is inspirational. I hope should they need help once we’re “out” of this pandemic they will know they now have friends in the community who are ready to assist. I believe it’s important we all learn from this experience and gain a sense of community so that we can take some good from it!”

Rose Cook Monk shared her heartwarming story of newfound friendship. An older man she was supporting was rushed to hospital as he had fallen down the stairs of his maisonette. When the nurse asked if there was anyone they could call, Rose was the only person he could think of.

“I ring him to tell him I’m on my way and he puts the money in an envelope – I ask if he’s ok – he always says the same thing “I am now I’ve seen you bless you for looking after me”.

So why after such a short time with such little contact was I his only ‘friend’ – what on earth did this poor Man do before the lockdown? Who helped him? Who did he talk to?

There must be hundreds of people like him out there. Please if you live by an elderly person or even someone living on their own – keep yourself safe – socially distance yourself – but knock on their door – drop a note through their letterbox, check that they are okay. One face, one voice could make all the difference to their day.”

Read more…

Mother and daughter, Sam and Sharon, shared how they have been connecting with local isolated people.

“We have had a number of local residents in Kingswinford and Amblecote we have been shopping for, collecting prescriptions and offering a friendly chat on the phone when they need it.

We feel we have made a difference by allowing vulnerable people to have a connection to the outside world in this awful time. Without the volunteers, they wouldn’t have access to essentials at this difficult time. It has been a very rewarding experience and it’s brilliant to help the community where possible.”

Read more…

Dave has predominantly carried out collections of medication from chemists to deliver to vulnerable people.

“One man, in particular, stated that I was the first person he had seen face to face for a week and it was so refreshing for him. We chatted for about 20 minutes (at a safe distance of course).

I gave him my works number and told him that if he wanted a chat at anytime he could call me. He said that he had plenty of telephone calls but it was just nice to actually see someone and have a conversation.

I also support another Coseley resident who has not left his house since March. He is always very grateful for a quick chat when we deliver anything.​”

Steve and Jayne have been volunteering with Black Country Foodbank. They pay tribute to those wonderful people who are selflessly keeping the country going during the pandemic often at risk to themselves.

“I’ve kept my head down volunteering in the strange world of the Covid crisis but today need to pay tribute to WONDERFUL PEOPLE who give so much expecting little or nothing in return. My dear Jayne of whom I’m always proud has been volunteering with me since the start of the crisis three days a week at Black Country Foodbank with a brilliant group of like-minded volunteers whose only objective is to help those so much less fortunate. Thank you to all.”

Read more…

And, here, just one of the messages of thanks that was sent to us from a lady supported with essential shopping:

“I just wanted to thank you for arranging my shopping requirements, which arrived just after 7.00pm tonight. Your volunteer called me from her car after she had left the shopping on my doorstep, so she followed the separation guidance perfectly. The shopping was spot on, in every respect, and even though I did thank her, may I perhaps ask you to pass on my gratitude to her. I am a little embarrassed that I was unable to even offer her a contribution towards her additional fuel costs. Her voluntary actions have allowed me to relax now, and obviously this also wouldn’t have been possible without the actions of Gemma and yourself. The system works well! Thank you. Ironically, until he sadly passed away last July, for many years I was providing the same service to a 97 year old friend, never thinking that I would need similar help less than a year later. It goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner.”

Our Children, Young People and Families team shared stories of many incredible young people who are making a difference by getting involved to help and support others during this pandemic, delivering meals to families, shopping and collecting prescriptions for vulnerable people, baking cakes for key workers and producing information and resources to support other young people.

Tom an electrical engineer and Chloe a nursery assistant have both been furloughed so have plenty of time on their hands and wanted to help. Tom was clear from the start that he was not a ‘shopper’ and this would be his worst nightmare but he was happy to collect and deliver prescriptions which he did most days. They followed all of the social distancing guidelines and used hand sanitiser after each delivery. People were so incredibly grateful for their help, they got lots of smiles and waves which made it all worthwhile.

Katie is a student at Halesowen College and has been volunteering with Dudley CVS and partners including West Midlands Police for the past 5 years. Katie has a huge heart and passion to help others young or old.  A quick call to Katie any time of day with a chance to get involved will always result in a big yes, what time and where?  Katie arrives every time with a big smile and a huge amount of enthusiasm that is infectious.

During this pandemic volunteers from Black Country Wellbeing Hub, Dudley CVS and DMBC Public Health Colleagues delivered a massive 6000 meals to children across the borough in just 8 days. We calculated that just Katie and driver covered 376 miles and she alone must have jumped out of the car and run up drives to grateful families and smiley children at least 250 times. However this is not the end of Katie’s kindness, she has shopped for a family of 5 who are socially isolating due to their dad being shielded. She was the master of the Tesco scan gun!

Young Health Champion Becky has been busy writing blogs for www.dudleyyhc.wordpress.com. Becky has produced a number of flyers for young people on handwashing, things to do during lockdown and how young people can look after their emotional health.

Another Young Health Champion, Ash, has written a number of blogs providing information on dental hygiene during lockdown and other health-related information. Ash has also been shopping and collecting medication for local residents in Stourbridge.

We just want to finish by saying a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers who have been supporting their communities through our Covid-19 support networks across Dudley borough. You’re all stars!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to our Podcast and learn more about ESF Black Country Community Grants

New for 2020, Dudley CVS podcasts!

For our first ever Dudley CVS podcast, we got together with colleagues from Dudley Council and Black Country Community Grants (run through Walsall Council) to talk about the next rounds of ESF Black Country Community Grants.

Listen and learn more about the programme and how to produce a good-quality application with Becky, Martin, Ruth and Jacki.

We’ll provide a transcript of this podcast as soon as we possibly can.

What we can achieve if we work together! Celebrating inspirational local people, groups and projects across Dudley Borough #dva19 #dvastory

Dudley CVS’s Annual General Meeting and Awards is a celebration that recognises inspirational local volunteers, people and groups who generously give their time to help make life better for others in Dudley borough. It’s also a time to reflect on some of our greatest achievements throughout the year and to spotlight some of the amazing projects, groups and individuals we have supported. It’s also a lovely opportunity to join our colleagues at the Brierley Hill Civic and showcase our wonderful venue and what it has to offer.

At this year’s event we spotlighted some of the projects, groups and individuals we have been working with during 2018-19 and shared a snapshot our annual review; how we’ve been connecting, inspiring and championing great community work across the Dudley borough. Take a look at the full annual review here: http://www.dudleycvsreview.org

Last year our Carers Co-ordinator and Integrated Plus team continued to support more than 1,000 unpaid carers, people in crisis and those with complex needs. Our Integrated Plus team build a network of support around individuals, ranging from practical help, financial support and community activities to help them to become more socially connected and resilient.

During our AGM we spotlighted our work to develop the Integrated Plus High-Intensity User Service (HIU), supporting people in crisis and those with complex needs. Read more about the project on Danielle and Kelly’s blog post, “Our support to individuals all starts with a phone call and a cuppa.” https://bit.ly/2oXV5X6

Our Healthwatch Dudley colleagues shared highlights from their work last year, you’ll find their annual report here: https://bit.ly/33RAT7K

Integrated Plus, Healthwatch Dudley and our Carers team bring their different skills and experiences together in a way that benefits the sector and ultimately, the communities the sector supports.

Our work with Dudley’s Young Health Champions inspired Lauren to tackle period poverty. Her idea to make up packs now sees them distributed in all sorts of places, from family centres to schools. Lauren is making a real positive difference to the mental health of other young people https://bit.ly/2BEL7fT

We spotlighted Airtime, a weekly group for members of the community with COPD and related conditions, and our work to support the group to become independent and sustainable. Airtime was one amongst 200 hundred not-for-profits we supported last year.

We worked with Age UK Dudley to support a common aim: keeping vulnerable people connected and well. 9 groups were helped to kickstart or expand their activities with grants of between £250 and £500. Age UK funding helped Wall Heath Ladies Choir to get started and get a further grant of £3,000 https://bit.ly/31DCOeD

Our support to groups last year led to 32 successful funding applications totalling almost £2,000,000. We’ve supported groups to raise more than £11.7 million from grant funders over the past 11 years!

Our work with Dudley Voices for Choice (DVC) resulted in them being awarded a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund totalling £415,720 to maintain a regional self-advocacy network https://bit.ly/2MGZeYd

We brought together local charities CHADD, Barnardos and Phase Trust to design a service that would support vulnerable people who were involved or at risk of becoming involved in child criminal exploitation. Read more about the NAVIGATE project: https://bit.ly/2Jf3H2r

We’ve gathered local doers, creatives, makers and all kinds of people who shared an appetite nurture a culture of curiosity and kindness in Dudley town centre. https://bit.ly/361vrkQ

Our work in both Dudley and East Coseley Big Local show how we bring all sorts of people, organisations and partners together to build kinder and more connected communities.

Our Volunteer Centre helps people from all walks of life to connect with good causes and start making a difference. Last year we linked the Art Yard with incredible volunteers doing great things across Dudley borough. Artworks were created in celebration of what volunteers do to help their local communities. https://bit.ly/32C6URb

Following our AGM and highlights from 2018/19 it was time to focus on the awards part of the evening, celebrating local volunteers, people and groups who generously give their time to help make life better for others.

Listen back to the Dudley CVS Awards on Black Country Radio!

 

Deb Brownlee received the Arts and Heritage Award for her tireless work to reopen and restore St John’s Church in Kates Hill and turning it into a community hub. Deb’s nominator said “The ‘never say can’t’ attitude of this group is utterly remarkable and the obstacles they’ve had to overcome would have defeated most. Deb’s dedication is exemplary and having spent 1000s of hours on her beloved project is fully deserving of an award”.

The Sporting Champion Award was awarded to Bryn Nicholls and Briony Tonks from Oldswinford and Stourbridge Social Cricket Club. Bryn and Briony have developed a supportive and fun programme of cricket activities for disabled children and young people. Their nominator said “The needs of participants are to the forefront of Bryn and Briony, and sessions are planned and delivered so as to help all involved to develop both personal skills and social skills.”

Kyle Harper was awarded this year’s Ray McGuirk Young Volunteer of the Year Award. Kyle helped to set up All Stars Youth Club, and regularly volunteers at the club which caters for young people with special educational needs and disabilities aged 8-30 years. Kyle’s nominator said “All Stars Youth Club initially had no funding. Kyle decided to fundraise by doing a bag pack at Tesco which raised over £300. He also solely arranged a Charity Ball with singers, raffle, bingo and a disco, raising £700!”

The Business Supporting the Community Award went to Julie Bate from Amblecote Sainsburys for the dedication she has shown to local family carers and organisations that support them in Dudley borough. Julie’s nominator said “She has a social conscience and has made a real impact by helping us all to create positive spaces for people who are struggling with their caring role. She listens to people when they feel unheard, takes action and inspires others to do the same.”

Friends of Wollescote Park received the Community Champion Award for all their hard work to make the park a beautiful oasis for the community. The person who nominated Wollescote Park said “The group are really innovative and tenacious. Their exceptional commitment to involving the whole community and being inclusive is to be commended. Their project work is an inspiration for other community groups.”

Recovery Café volunteers received the Kindness and Inclusion Award. Their nominator said “All the volunteers are, or have been dealing with their own issues, whether that be mental health, addiction or financial hardship and they are all getting through it and supporting each other as well as the customers of the café.”

 

The Mark Ellerby Award for enterprise, digital and technology went to Mike Tolfree, Oliver Bennet and Callum Fowkes who are all volunteers at the Beacon Centre’s FabLab, a workshop that develops visually-impaired people’s digital manufacture skills. Their nominator said: “Mike, Oliver and Callum are hugely dedicated to the Beacon’s FabLab and their enthusiasm has been instrumental in ensuring the successful launch and 1st year of FabLab”

Their nominator said “Mike has pushed forward on an artistic level taking the quality of products to a level we didn’t expect so early on, enhancing photographic and personalised ornaments and corporate branded items such as T-shirts, keyrings and signage”

“Not only has Oliver immersed himself in smart device accessibility to help the Beacon Centre’s visually-impaired customers, he’s dedicated to 3 clients in our home visiting scheme, helping them get out and about, giving IT support & helping one to set up their own company.”

Callum’s nominator said that he “developed his knowledge of 3D printing and design for FabLab to produce bespoke items such as 3D tactile maps. These 3D maps enable visually impaired people gain a better understanding of new surroundings & environments through touch”

“Without Mike, Oliver and Callum, the Fab Lab would, quite simply, not be able to operate.”

The Gordon Lindsay Award for Long Service, is an award for special local heroes who’ve dedicated more than 20 years to their communities. This was awarded to Jillian Fielder.

Jillian has been volunteering for 35 years to help children and young people develop, either with the Boys Brigade or the toddlers group she leads. Jill’s nominator said that her Boys Brigade group “provides a safe environment where children can run off steam, be children, build their confidence and self-esteem by trying new things and discover for themselves who they are as individuals.”

Jill’s Mom & Toddler group “also provides adults with the rare opportunity of sitting and chatting with friends, which helps to reduce isolation and loneliness and encouraging people to make new friends”

And Jill’s nominator thinks Jill is so special because “She sees the hardships that some of these children are going through and strives to make a positive difference to their lives. She is a hidden gem to our community.”

This year’s event also introduced a new award Operation Santa Business with a Big Heart Award.    

Operation Santa is a local campaign, which is run by Dudley CVS. Every year donations of new toys, gifts, food etc. are collected and distributed to local voluntary and community groups who support children, young people and families in crisis within Dudley borough. This year Dudley CVS recognised two outstanding businesses that had generously supported the campaign.

The Court House in Kingswinford, provided 100 free Christmas carvery dinners for children who would otherwise not get a Christmas lunch.

Garry and Hayley Aulton behind Beer Buz, organised a reverse Santa where people brought presents, plus an auction of donated items.  This auction raised over £3500 for local children and young people this Christmas.

View the full photo gallery from the event on the #DVA19 blog

What people said:

Always a special evening … I am in awe of all the volunteers who give so much to this community

I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful work that is being carried out by our volunteers!

Kindness ♥♥

Inspired, enthused and motivated to volunteer. Thank you DCVS!

Lovely to see kind, hardworking people recognised and the difference they make.

Inspiring and humbled. Great to see people being recognised

Still lots of things to achieve but let’s hope we are on the right road to success

Proud to work in Dudley ♥

A wonderful uplifting evening

Volunteers are worth their weight in gold x

 

Airtime: A friendly space to meet other people living with COPD and related conditions

At the Dudley CVS Annual Awards and AGM this year we spotlighted some of the amazing groups and individuals we supported during 2018/19. One of those groups was Airtime, a weekly group for members of the community with COPD and related conditions, developed by Integrated Plus and Healthwatch Dudley. Our work with the group over the last year has helped them to become independent and sustainable.

Dudley now has a sustained peer support group for individuals with chronic lung conditions which helps to improve confidence and quality of life. The group have now taken on leadership responsibilities and contribute to the health and wellbeing of its members. They are now looking to expand and find others with similar conditions who may like to join their group.

Members of Airtime understand how important it is to have the opportunity to meet with others experiencing similar challenges in a safe and caring environment. One of the groups main aims is to combat the feeling of isolation by giving people a chance to meet like-minded people with similar lung conditions in social surroundings. It’s a space to relieve stress, to laugh and feel the camaraderie. You can get involved in many activities including arts and crafts, bingo and quizzes, gentle exercises such as seated yoga, tai-chi and meditation. There are informative and educational talks, films, and musical performances.

We caught up with Angela, Dave and Jean at DY1 Community Building on Stafford Street, where the group is held each Thursday from 1pm, to find out how more about their conditions, the impact that Airtime has had on their lives and their exciting plans to develop the group for the benefit of members.

 

Angela has been coming to Airtime since 2016, she has emphysema, a condition that causes shortness of breath,

“Suddenly I had somewhere to go where there were people with the same problems as me. Everybody understands how you feel and we help each other, so you’re not trying to deal with it on your own.

Airtime has given me another interest. With my husband at work all day, I was at home on my own a lot. If you’re sitting at home looking at four walls you can get quite depressed. It doesn’t start until 1, but you’ll find most people turn up in the café at 12 just to have a chat. Suddenly you are not so isolated, you’ve got a friend at the end of the phone. Your mental and physical health improves. It’s like a family.

We talk to each other in a language we can all understand. We can learn things from each other that a consultant might not talk to you about.

There is a core of 20 people that come frequently and others occasionally. It’s just good to come out, talk to somebody and have a laugh. We like the group to bring ideas forward so everyone is involved in planning what we do.

Since joining Airtime, I’ve actually gone on to join many other groups. I’m a Healthwatch Community Reporter, I’m also a part of a research group. It gives you the feeling that you count again as a person, suddenly you are not just a patient.”

The group also have a Christmas party meal with entertainment where they have a raffle to help them to raise money for the group’s activities.

 Jean has long term bronchiectasis which she developed when she was 10. “My condition is progressive, but very slowly. You can live with it, but if you get an infection it’s a struggle. You get through it, but it limits your life.

I love coming to Airtime, I’ve met some really nice people. You build some really good friendships. I met Dave at Airtime, and he’s now one of my best friends. The main thing is to get up off your settee and get out! Every Thursday, I think, it’s Airtime today, and I love it.

The respiratory nurses that come have been massively helpful, although it’s stuff we’ve all been through before, sometimes it goes out of your mind and for them to come in and refresh your memory is massively helpful.”

Dave has had Bronchiectasis for 25 years, he holds the position of Treasurer and also likes to organise quizzes for the group, “I lost my wife about 7 years ago, and when she went, I was completely lost. After 2 years of lying on the settee, I thought, I can’t carry on like this, I’ve got to do something. That’s when I found out about Airtime. For the first time I went dancing, and I met Kathy, who I’ve been with ever since. It’s given me the confidence to go out and meet new people and it’s also something to look forward to.”

The group have been running independently for 6 months now, they are planning activities and making their own decisions. Dudley CVS supported them to look at the frameworks within which they could operate, and the implications of running the group independently. Together they developed a simple constitution and elected the first committee to run the group democratically. Airtime was one amongst 200 hundred not-for-profits we supported last year.

Dave said, “Looking after Airtime now and being part of the committee has given me an extra lease in life. Now I do extra things for the group which I really enjoy. It’s brought me out of myself. Being treasurer also gives me something to do at home.

We ask new people to take a survey when they join Airtime, after 6 months we ask them to take the survey again to see if coming to the group has made a difference to their lives. Nearly everybody has commented about being able to get out of the house, most people were isolated. For some people, Airtime is the only thing they do. You can see people improving, it helps them to manage their condition.”

After our chat, we went to meet the rest of the group who were busy getting creative carving pumpkins and making Halloween crafts. The group also had a special visit from Chief Superintendent, Sally Bourner, who presented them with their Dudley CVS Spotlight certificate, a surprise for the benefit of those who weren’t present at the awards evening.

So, what can you expect if you dropped by Airtime? A warm welcome that’s for sure! A place to meet new people, take part in fun activities and listen to talks from respiratory experts and other guests. The chance to mix with other people living with respiratory conditions and to make friends. A lovely afternoon out for free with a superb supply of tea and biscuits of course!

If you are interested in joining Airtime Dudley, it’s free and runs each Thursday from 1pm – 3pm at DY1 Community Building, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT and is open to anyone suffering from chronic lung conditions such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.

New members are very welcome.

For further information please feel free to contact Angela Rea angela2ree@gmail.com or Dave Taylor on axnfel@talktalk.net

Grace Community Church: Working together to build a vibrant new community space for local people in Pensnett

Grace Community Church, based in Pensnett, is a passionate congregation of people, committed to making their local area a better place to live by responding to the changing needs of the community around them. As a community, they have pulled together using their individual skills and connections to build a vibrant new community space that will become a place where local people can come together, learn new things, and get support.

I recently visited Nigel Rowe, Pastor at Grace Community Church, at their new community building to find out more about their recent asset transfer success and future plans for the building and the local community.

It was in early 2018 when Nigel approached Dudley CVS looking for a community space in the Pensnett area to use as a base for their group’s activities. After an initial discussion about potential buildings they could rent in the area, Becky, Dudley CVS Small Groups Officer, suggested community asset transfer as an option to consider and pointed in the direction of Dudley Council to find out more about potential buildings available in the area.

After a short period of looking around, Nigel found a local building that wasn’t being fully utilized. It had previously been used for a senior citizens club, which only met once or twice a week for bingo. The space had the potential to offer lots more. After expressing an interest in the building, they put together a business plan and worked with Dudley Council to start the asset transfer process. They received the keys in October last year.

Community asset transfer involves the transfer of responsibility for buildings or land from the local authority to a voluntary or community organisation. It presents opportunities to ensure that facilities can continue to be available locally for social, community and public use. The process starts with an expression of interest, followed by a business plan to show community support for the transfer, the kinds of activities that would take place in the building that would benefit the community, and financial sustainability.

Although they found the asset transfer a lengthy process, it gave them some extra time to raise the funds to renovate the building. Roughly £25,000 has been spent on the renovations so far. The Ibstock Enovert Trust, an environmental body that supports community and environmental projects, awarded £15,000 for the project, and the church’s congregation worked hard to raise the rest of the money.

When I visited Nigel at the building, I was amazed to find wonderfully welcoming, bright and spacious rooms, beautifully decorated with modern fixtures and fittings, a vast improvement from the old photos I’d seen of the building. Although not entirely finished, it’s very nearly there, even as I arrived there was somebody busily painting away!

Nigel told me about the incredible support from the local community, how everybody pulled together to make this project happen, not only the congregation but also local businesses that had donated fittings, materials and equipment.

Tiles were donated by a local business doing a renovation job in the area. Electricians, Sunny Electrical, and local plumbing company Gill Mechanical Service offered their skills at a reduced rate. Will Hire from Lye hired out scaffolding and core drills free of charge. Howdens donated a fitted kitchen after hearing about their various food-related projects for local people, including hampers during the winter, and ‘Make Lunch’, providing free school meals to young people and children during the school holidays.

It’s unbelievable to see old photos of how the building looked before the renovation work began:

And today, the incredible transformation – a bright and modern space!

And, the congregation are not just a vibrant and friendly bunch, they themselves are also very ‘handy’ with skills in decorating, painting, plastering and building work. Locally, Grace Community Church has taken on gardening and DIY projects for elderly people that can’t get out of the house, or for people that might be struggling for other reasons. Nigel told me, “It’s surprising how much you need for a renovation project like this that you don’t realise. We’re already using a lot of these skills out in the community, and we’re now using them to complete this project so that we can bring the community in. Local people and businesses just wanted to help because they had heard about all the good things we were planning to do with the space.”

All Nations Church Wolverhampton, their parent church, has also helped and supported the work in the area.

The building is now equipped with everything that is needed for a fully functioning community space. It has a large bright main room for events, a brand new modern kitchen space, toilet facilities and a day/activities room for toddler groups.

The vision for what takes place in the building has been built around what they have learnt from the changing needs of the community around them. They will start with a toddler group to support isolated parents in the area, as since the closure of the local children’s centre there hasn’t been a great provision for parents. Their aim is to ensure that people can drop in at any time, and there will always be someone available in the building to support parents. Nigel added, “It will be a place where answers can be found. We don’t have all the answers, but we can work together to find them”. The Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am.

Nigel is also a Chaplain at Crestwood School, offering extra support for young people during lunchtime. This helps them to understand the needs of young people in the area.

The space will be used to run activities with young families, to start youth groups, art clubs, coffee mornings, and in the future, they hope to put on parenting classes, and workshops to support people with managing their finances. There will be summer school meals in the new kitchen and big events during the summer and Christmas time. Currently, they run a music workshop on a Wednesday evening and are looking to expand. People of all ages are welcome to come and use the equipment. They also plan to link up with the local food bank and potentially use the building as a distribution point.

Their aim is to build up better relationships with local people through running groups, classes and events. It’s also about connecting people socially by offering a safe place to meet to get to know other people, with a hope that new friendship groups will blossom.

Nigel tells me, “Isolation affects people of all ages. There is nowhere local to just sit down and have a coffee. We want to have drop-ins so that people can come in and have a friendly face to share a hot drink and a cake with.” Exciting future plans include potentially opening a coffee shop in the building to provide people with a place to meet and do things, also giving local people job opportunities.

Grace Community Church is now focused on getting over the starting line so they can bring exciting new projects and activities to the community. It’s wonderful to see such a transformation, providing the Pensnett community with a place to be for many years to come. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Grace Toddler Group meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30am until 11am. There is also a meeting every Sunday morning from 10:30am for an open and friendly church service with children’s activities and refreshments at the end. All are welcome.

If you would like to find out more about the project contact gracechurch@allnations.org.uk

 

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’ – Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group

Based at the Meadow Road Youth Centre, the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group, in Dudley, is a group for older people who are interested in woodwork.  It’s a fun and friendly environment offering older people a place to learn new or develop existing woodworking skills. It’s also a great place to find new friendships. The group has 23 members in total. Some members live on their own, some are widowers, some just like to get out of the house, make something and put their skills to good use! The oldest member, Ken, is 93 years old.

‘Fed up with looking at four walls? Then come and look at ours instead!’  That’s the motto of the Senior Citizens Enterprise Woodwork Group.

The wood workshop is fully equipped with modern tools and machinery. There really isn’t much that the group hasn’t made, and they’re always on the lookout for new projects to keep them occupied. They’ve kindly created cosy homes for many of the animals at Dudley Zoo, a castle hideout for the zoo’s female guinea pigs, a hotel for rabbits, bird, bat and red panda boxes. They’ve even built penguin boxes – they tell me that they have successfully bred since, so must have done a good job making them feel at home!

Members have also kindly given their time and skills to build a variety of bird habitats for the Midland Metro Alliance which will be installed along the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill route for the Midland Metro. It’s hoped that the bird boxes will attract a wide range of nesting birds.

They’ve built a bench for Acorns Children’s Hospice, nest boxes for local schools and they’re now looking to build Pine Marten boxes for an RSPB site in Shropshire.

The group acquire offcuts of wood donated by local businesses which enables them to build all of the items, these materials would otherwise have gone to landfill. They have even rescued supermarket trolleys from the canal and used the wheels to make wood replenishing trolleys that fit snuggly under the workbenches.

Steve is one of the youngest members of the group, he joined when he was 63 and mainly makes things for the family like shelving and benches. He tells me that people like to come to the workshop because they enjoy the camaraderie and they like to have a good laugh. A couple of members don’t look forward to the Christmas holidays as it just imposes on them coming to the workshop! They’ll open up again as soon as Boxing Day arrives, as long as there are two people in the workshop, for health and safety reasons, they will happily come in over Christmas!

Steve contacted Dudley CVS to get support to apply for a Dudley Community Forum Grant of £550. The application was successful, helping them to purchase sanding disks, belts, saw blades, machine saws and new router bits. They’ve also received £900 from Age UK, which they have used to buy a new router machine.

Dave is one of the founding members of the group, he’s made things including rocking horses and dolls houses. It usually takes him about 3 months to make a rocking horse which is made in blocks, glued together and then carved and painted. He’s also carved a shark out of wood, which sits on his fireplace at home.

Chairman Mick, is highly skilled on the woodturning lathes, he’s made fruit bowls and pens. He’s even made a beautifully carved walking stick.

Dave and Derek have a background in upholstery. Derek recently made an intricate money box. He enjoys coming to the workshop, but doesn’t like Thursdays much, as that’s when the workshop closes for the weekend!

Ken, the oldest member, is making clocks for his sons out of an old sideboard that belonged to his parents.

Bruce makes detailed wooden toy trains, plains and trucks. He finds his inspiration in woodwork books.

Bill is 84, he came to the workshop when he was 70, he started out as Chairman. He likes to make clocks and other things. He remembers the days when they used to walk around timber yards asking for offcuts of wood. He said “Coming here is good, we can discuss things over lunch, at our age, we don’t see anybody, pubs are too expensive and not good for you!’

George, the treasurer, likes to make boats with sails. He keeps them in his large shed, apparently, you have to go in sideways because of the number fabulous boats, lifeboats and submarines he has made.

All members are extremely skilled and talented. Some had skills before, some hadn’t, many have learnt skills from each other. All of their items are beautifully made and finished to a high standard.

The group originally started in the early 2000s when a few people were faced with redundancy from local businesses. It was suggested they go on other courses to re-skill, one of those was a woodwork course at Dudley College. When that closed down the group moved to Mons Hill in Dudley, then amalgamated with another group from Brierley Hill, it was then that they moved to Meadow Road Youth Centre where they have been based for over a decade now. They still use the original machinery that was donated by Dudley College over a decade ago.

The group has recently become a member of UK Men’s Sheds Association. Men’s Sheds provides support and guidance to individuals and groups across the UK, raising awareness of the social and health benefits of Men’s Sheds in reducing isolation, loneliness and in empowering local communities. Men’s Sheds supports individual groups to connect with new members of the community. They also provide advice and guidance on starting up and running a shed providing practical information guides, example documents and toolkits on topics such as registering as a charity, insurance, funding, sourcing equipment and venues, and volunteer recruitment.

To anyone who might be interested to join, they would say, “Come in, do your own thing, we’ve got heating, toilets and cups of tea to keep us nice and warm! What more could you want?”

To find out more about the group visit https://bit.ly/2WxNlHd

Discover U – Providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities

Based in Wollaston, Discover U is a vibrant and welcoming space providing work-related experience to adults with disabilities. Discover U is not a daycare centre, it’s a charity working to support people who face barriers when getting into employment. It’s an environment where people can prosper and grow, fulfil their goals and reach their potential, a place to learn social, emotional, functional and employability skills. The people that go there are supported by volunteers to set their own goals and are helped to achieve them.

Discover U has a well-equipped wood workshop, garden area, front tea room and upstairs sewing room, most of which are busy every day. With materials donated by local businesses, they are able to turn unwanted pieces of wood, fabrics and bottles (some of which donated by the Brierley Hill Civic) into beautifully handcrafted and saleable items. They even have donations of fruit from people in the local community which they use to make cakes for the tea room. It’s now a community hub where local people can pop in for a hot drink, a cake, and look at all the wonderful items for sale.

You only have to look around the workshop to see the passion to learn, the creativity, the enjoyment and sense of pride in the products they have made. Everywhere you look there are beautifully made high-quality products, Bee Hotels, bird boxes, bottle lights, knitted tea cosies, cushions, chairs, you name it…they have probably made it! They even made our wooden awards for the Dudley CVS Volunteer Awards last year.

It’s a wonderful hive of activity. Lorna is busy drawing up ideas for her next recycled bottle project; she shows us her sketchbook full of ideas and designs. James has invested his time learning about safeguarding and what you need to do to keep people safe. Thanks to James, Discover U is now recognised as a Safe Place to visit in Dudley. Kieran is busy tidying up the cabin shop showing us the variety of products for sale. Darren tells us how he wants to work as a painter and decorator having learnt painting skills in the workshop.

Discover U members come from a variety of backgrounds, together they are building a vibrant, fun and pleasant working environment.

Everybody plays an important part, whether it’s in the design of a new concept, the manufacturer or the sale of a product at the end. Everybody’s involved in the process right from the very start and they take pride in what they’re doing.

In the workshop, they are supervised and learn how to use power tools. When they have passed their food hygiene course they can then work in the kitchen and serve customers. Operating the till helps them to learn about money management, it also helps them to improve their social skills by interacting with customers.

Steve Smith, one of the founders of Discover U, tells us of how for so long they have been told ‘you can’t do it because…’, at Discover U, volunteers will support people to do tasks on their own, build their confidence and tell them ‘you can do it!’

We hope you enjoy this short film we have made to spotlight this amazing group in Dudley.

If you would like to find out more about Discover U, visit their website www.discoveru2015.org or Facebook page. Or why not pay them a visit? They are open Mon-Thu from 9.30 until 4, they also have a stall at Kingswinford market on most Saturdays during the warmer months.

 

The Hope Project – Building positive futures for people of all ages

Paul and Joanne Westwood arrived in Coseley three years ago with a vision to improve the lives and welfare of people in the community. They are now turning their ideas into a reality, building positive futures for people of all ages.

The Hope Project, presents three very distinct programmes, designed to positively impact the health and wellbeing of people in the community. Music Moves, a music based course supporting the emotional well-being of 11-17 year olds, Living Life to the Full, designed to support people who struggle with anxiety, low mood and depression, and Beauty for Ashes, designed to support survivors of domestic abuse.

We were invited to the celebration and launch of this new charity at their base, New Hope Baptist Church, a welcoming, vibrant and multi-use space located in the heart of Coseley, the perfect destination for three wonderfully different projects.

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Long before starting the Music Moves programme, Paul and Joanne were working with groups of young people in a youth club setting. They found that the young people came along to the club because they were a little at a loose end or for social reasons, a couple were a little introverted, anxious, and found it difficult to mix and communicate.

When arriving in Coseley 3 years ago, Paul, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and musician of 20 years, decided to set up a music club to help young people to socialise, build confidence and play music together. It was at this point he realised how much young people of all backgrounds were communicating whilst playing music together, and the idea behind Music Moves started to grow…

Music Moves has been designed to positively impact the emotional well-being of young vulnerable people. It is a 12-week programme, primarily designed to introduce a new way for 11-17 year olds to cope with anxiety, emotional and physical bullying, and other mental health issues. Using a referral method through schools, health professionals, police and other agencies, the programme will take them on a journey of positive personal growth and development through the medium of music.

Paul said, “The structure of the programme is in three parts. The first 4 sessions we teach the young people to play something within their skill set, the second 4 week period is bringing them together collectively, in a band environment, and in the final 4 weeks we take them into the recording studio to produce a CD or a digital download. This means they will also be introduced to music production.”

Paul has worked with many young people who have experienced bullying in school, cyber bullying and anxiety, he has also worked over many years with young offenders, and understands the challenges faced by young people.

“We hope it will be a preventative model for those who struggle with low self-esteem and other mental health issues, and it will give them something they can do away from their usual environment of school.”

The Hope Project has successfully received £13,000 from East Coseley Big Local to finish equipping a recording studio at the church, and to pay professional musician Dan Healey to run the Music Moves programme. The studio has state of the art equipment that will allow young people to develop their skills in recording and also allow them to learn and master different instruments.

Dan is also a talented musician. During his musical career he has performed with major artists in the music industry and now teaches music at Wolverhampton University. He has a passion to support young people to develop their skills in music, and to help them interact and communicate in new and creative ways.

At the launch we heard a fantastic performance from the Music Moves pilot group, young people that had started out as complete beginners only a few months before, formed a band and had now built the confidence to perform to a live audience.

Living Life to the Full is a life skills 8-week programme, produced by psychologist, Dr Chris Williams, nationally recognised to support people who struggle with anxiety and low mood, and is designed to help people deal with life on a day to day basis.

Joanne was a nurse for 30 years before starting work with the church. “I found that a lot of people found it difficult to say that they were struggling with depression. To say I’m feeling really low or I’m anxious, to come forward and open up was a struggle for some people due to the stigma surrounding it, many had suffered for many years without coming forward. We decided to think about how we could support people with anxiety and low mood and people that suffer from depression.”

“Many people simply try to live with low mood and anxiety.  This can often lead to more severe mental health issues if no interventions are found.”

Joanne and Ruth Carter, also a nurse, working with patients with chronic pain, run the self-referral project together in a group setting, providing useful resources to people that may feel a little low and isolated in the community.

It’s a low intensity and practical programme, that’s not here to replace what the local mental health team does, but to complement it.

Joanne said, “We ran two pilot courses, mindful of those with faith and the struggles that they will encounter, and also those without faith. One of the great things that has come out of this is that one of the ladies wants to set up a peer support group so that there will be continued support for people in the community.”

Beauty for Ashes is a women’s group designed to support survivors of domestic violence who have removed themselves from the relationship. The group gives help, both emotionally and practically, to those who are trying to realise a positive future further on down the line, and in need of that extra bit of support.

Joanne said, “We knew we wanted to work with survivors of domestic violence as we had previously sat on a West Midlands Police steering group and we knew from that group how much of a need there was to do this.”

The aim of the group is to provide an environment of support, concentrating on overcoming personal difficulties that are experienced as a result of abuse and to help women to feel more equipped to lead improved and independent lives, building self-esteem and empowerment. Many of the women who attend will be at various stages in the rebuilding of their lives.

“Even though we are a church some of what we do is non-faith based. We wanted to do both groups. In some faiths there is a distorted belief that the man is the authority in the relationship and it’s difficult for women to come forward and talk about it.”

Joanne has successfully completed Power to Change, a Women’s Aid training course in order to help her to support women to have healthy relationships post domestic abuse. “The name Beauty for Ashes symbolises turning a really difficult and horrible situation into something that is really positive and good.”

Joanne and fellow church member Davinda, will fully launch Beauty for Ashes in the summer of 2019 and will again look at the two groups, those with faith and those without faith.

The Hope Project received support from Dudley CVS around 18 months ago when they first had the idea of setting up the project and the three associated programmes. “We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to do it. We were struggling for direction. Becky helped us to identify that a Community Interest Organisation (CIO) was the best route for us, whilst leaving it up to us to decide, she gave us good advice. We had time to question and take it all in, with what we thought was a minefield, she gave us the reassurance and guided us through it at our pace. Lorna, (Dudley CVS) supported us with an application for funding from East Coseley Big Local, she helped us to see our vision more clearly.”

“Dudley CVS gave us knowledge and information but allowed us to find our own direction.”

Paul, Joanne, and the rest of the team radiate enthusiasm and energy, you can see how committed and passionate they are about building positive futures and improving the well-being of local people of all ages.

“Our key ingredients are commitment, a pioneering spirit, compassion and willingness to work hard for no reward. We are non-judgemental and accept people where they are at in their lives.”

For more information on The Hope Project or associated programmes, please contact info@thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk or visit the website at www.thehopeprojectcoseley.org.uk

Restoration of Riverside House: Engaging people in practical activities

Last December, we visited Lloyd Stacey, founder and director of Riverside House, at the beautiful historic site and former early 19th Century ironworks, to meet some of the wonderful people who are transforming the derelict site for the benefit of the community.

As we made our way through the wilderness of woodland located between the Stourbridge canal and the River Stour, we found the team busily clearing rubbish, cutting back the overgrown brash, chopping wood and burning the dead wood over a crackling campfire.

Riverside House has fascinating heritage, history, geology and wildlife. The space includes woodland, a grade II listed house and workshops, a walled garden, a dry dock and narrow boat basin. Lloyd and his team are working to expose the heritage features through clearing the overgrowth, cleaning graffiti and restoring brickwork.

Over the next few years, Riverside House will be renovated and transformed into a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops. The idea is to create a place where people can learn and develop skills by transforming the site, in a social environment.

The project aims to help young unemployed adults and young people to participate in practical activities and learn traditional crafts, gardening and hospitality through their involvement of the conservation, preservation and restoration of Riverside House. The joy of learning practical skills have proven to provide outcomes such as improvements in well-being, confidence, self-esteem, social inclusivity, relationship building and physical health. As the project develops there will be more and more opportunities, the idea is to get the whole community using this space, take part in creative art projects and bring back traditional skills such as blacksmithing.

After a quick tour of the site, it was time for tea and biscuits around the campfire, a welcome reward for the team after a couple of hours of hard work! Sitting on handmade benches made from tree stumps, having a chat and a chuckle around the fire with a warm cuppa in hand… it was easy to see why people felt so happy and comfortable here.

We were introduced to Helen Garbett of Artworks for Change, an artist, who has been involved in Riverside House through social art projects, exploring place, natural and cultural landscape, heritage and social change through contemporary art. Helen runs participatory workshops and projects for individuals, organisations and communities that wish to engage in exploratory, creative activities, focusing particularly on those with a disability, caring responsibilities or health conditions.

Helen introduced us to her son Callum, an enthusiastic volunteer at Riverside House who was one of the first to join Lloyd at the beginning of the project, she said,

“When Callum left college, we were looking for things he was interested in doing. One thing that seemed to emerge over time is Callum’s interest in local history and horticulture, so when I got to hear about Lloyd and what he was doing down at Riverside House it just seemed ideal. He now goes 3 days a week and he absolutely loves it, he is so enthusiastic and never misses a day. They have a really tight group.

With autism, social interaction has always been difficult for Callum. Now, he’s having good conversations and feels relaxed with everyone, all of these social things I wasn’t expecting to come out of it has really benefited him. He now feels like he is part of a little community. He has taken ownership, Riverside House to him… well, he feels part of it, and it isn’t just a place that he goes to, he feels like it’s ‘his’ place.”

People from all walks of life have been attracted to the historical site, including historians and archaeologists, volunteers, including a retired builder, a former teacher and many young people with enthusiasm for horticulture, metalwork and woodwork. All sharing their expertise and knowledge.

John, a retired teacher from Stourbridge College, has lived in the area most of his life, walked past the site quite often and didn’t even know it existed until he was alerted to the Riverside project by a friend. He now volunteers 3 days a week and is interested to learn more about the historical importance of the site from the Dudley archives, and share his findings with others.

The former ironworks once consisted of forges, fineries, rolling-mills and foundries which transformed pig iron into casted and wrought iron products. Wrought iron was, at that time, the most widely used form of iron product.

Metal enthusiast, Tom, wearing a safety helmet (one of many from his collection!) has collected all kind of old metals from the site, which we hear he proudly displays in his bedroom!

Whilst we were keeping warm around the campfire, a small piece of scrap metal was found in the overgrowth, one volunteer heated it up, hammered it,  formed it into a small loop and cooled it down in a little pile of snow. You could already see the interest and enthusiasm for blacksmithing!

Riverside House has also adopted the towpath from Canal & River Trust and will be renovating this historically significant section of the canal which includes the entrances to the dry dock, canal basins and crane base.

Riverside has now become a CIC, achieved successful fundraising and has been networking and making connections which have resulted in referrals to other professionals. Dudley CVS supported Riverside House on formation of CIC and charity, writing charitable objectives, business planning advice, fundraising, general advice on recruitment, trustee appointments and volunteer work.

It will be fantastic to see the former ironworks site turn in to a waterside community attraction with café and shop selling local crafts and produce. The journey and all the things that will be learnt along the way will prove the most exciting part!

Read more about Riverside House at www.riverside-house.org.uk

If you would like more information or support for your group please contact Becky Pickin at smallgroups@dudleycvs.org.uk

Thirty years supporting people who have suffered a stroke and their families

Anne Adams, Dudley CVS Trustee, has been supporting people who have suffered a stroke and their families for more than thirty years and is now up for an award for her lifelong dedication to helping others.

After forming Dudley Stroke Association in 1987, Anne still devotes many hours of her time to the organisation, supporting people who have been affected by strokes throughout their journey to better health.

Through the organisation, Anne also coordinates evening events, coffee mornings, day trips and lunch clubs for people who have been through a stroke. Anne said:

“Our motto ever since we started in 1987 is ‘there is life after stroke’ because people who have been through it feel so isolated and alone before they realise support is out there.”

In 1977, Anne worked as a speech therapist with people affected by stroke. In those early days, Anne was convinced more could be done to help both the person suffering a stroke and their loved ones. In 1982, Anne formed the Dudley Stroke Club to provide opportunities to share experiences and organise social events. But specific information about how to help people post-stroke was very limited.

In 1987, a stroke victim, Jeanne Hignett, encouraged Anne to create Dudley Stroke Association.

Between 1987 and 2007 Anne wore two hats, by day a professional speech therapist and at other times a volunteer champion of the work of Dudley Stroke Association and people affected by stroke.

Anne retired from paid work in 2007, but continued to give her time volunteering with the Dudley Stroke Association.

About her 25 years as a Dudley CVS Board Member, Anne said, “Dudley Stroke Association is indebted to Dudley CVS for the help and support we have received over many years, particularly when we were applying for Charity status. Dudley Stroke association would not be where it is today without Dudley CVS. I feel privileged to be a Board Member.”

Today, Anne has been nominated for volunteer of the year at the Great Big Thank You Awards.

Anne said: “If I won the Volunteer of the Year Award, it would really be for everyone who has helped make the group what it is today. It would be for all the people who have worked so hard to overcome their obstacles. For all those people who have tried so hard to get their lives back on track after going through such a difficult time.”

Each day, until November 18th special vote tokens will be published in the Express & Star to collect. For more information on how to vote for Anne visit: http://www.starthankyou.expressandstar.co.uk/