The Plymouth Charity Furnishing a Future

The Devon and Cornwall Furniture Reuse Project has been helping some of the most vulnerable people in Plymouth since 2011.

Its remit is to provide good quality furniture and appliances at affordable prices but as Alison Turner who runs the project says, working with more than 300 charities and organisations across the region, they are frequently called upon to help those in crisis, and supply furniture and white goods free-of-charge.

“A lot of people don’t realise we’re here and what we do,” says Alison. “Last year Plymouth Social Services asked us to help an 82-year-old man in Plymouth who had been befriended and then scammed by his neighbours. Things were so bad that he had to be moved out quickly, his house cleared, and his new flat kitted out with furniture and appliances. After it was all done, I popped in to see him, and he couldn’t stop crying: he couldn’t believe that we would do all of that for nothing.”

And that’s not all. Alison and her colleagues have helped to write CVs; to complete job application forms and apply for bus passes.

“We are so much more than just free furniture,” says Alison. “We help build relationships with people.”

Regrettably business is booming. In February the city council donated £10,000 to set up the “Warmer Home 4U” initiative and enable the charity to purchase thousands of pounds worth of white goods and appliances. Since its launch it has provided more than a hundred individuals and families with all they might need to set up home. Crucially, this has left the recipients free of the financial burden and enabled them to get on with ‘living’. More recently, a second grant of £3,000 was received to help people in Cornwall, but that money, says Alison, was gone within a fortnight;

“We spent £3000 on white goods to help people in Cornwall; it went within two weeks and every single person was a victim of domestic violence.”

Five years ago, the charity was helping about twenty people a month now it has more than doubled and nearly fifty individuals and families each month are being supported by the charity. Furthermore, says Alison, there has been a significant increase in referrals from mental health and domestic abuse charities. Realising there was more they could do to help, Alison and her volunteer colleague Chloe, set up a second initiative in February, the Welcome Home Box;

“We knew they’d be popular and they’d be needed but we had no idea how much.”

With the help from local stores Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda, as well as Lush in the shopping mall, each Welcome Box contains about £100 worth of bedding, toiletries and small appliances. And Alison and Chloe say they always find time to put in a personal little note and extra ‘gifts’ for the children;

“We had a mum in Saltash fleeing from domestic violence. She had moved with her children into this house and it was just awful. But when she and her children opened the boxes, she said, the look on the kids’ faces was amazing.”
The Devon and Cornwall Furniture Reuse Project continues to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities; from refugees to victims of domestic violence; older people without any support and sixteen-year-olds leaving care: these are the individuals that Alison and her colleagues, the volunteers and the trustees of the charity, are committed to helping. It’s not furniture; it’s a future.

If you would like to support the charity please contact Alison on Plymouth 600277 or email plymouthfurniturereuseproject@yahoo.co.uk and help to furnish a future.

Sparks to Jump Start the High Street

A new fund – High Street Sparks – has been launched by POP, Plymouth City Council and The Box to award money to communities to get the city centre buzzing again.

Plymouth is one of sixty high streets across the UK to have a share of £95 million set up by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to create more attractive places for people to live, work and spend time. As part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme, High Street Sparks is concentrating, primarily, on Royal Parade and the Civic Square within which sits the Grade II Listed, Civic Centre. The Civic Square, designed for “dignity and frivolity,” was integral to the lauded “A Plan for Plymouth” (1943) which created “the country’s finest and boldest post-war city centre”. Today, the Portland Stone doesn’t shine quite so bright and the waters of the modernist civic pool may appear less than inviting yet, the Civic Square, retains its unique mid-century charm. Now, there is a significant pot of money to encourage and inspire communities of all shapes and sizes across the city to find their own distinctive ways to celebrate its heritage and attract people back to the future.

High Street Sparks has £2,500 to fund ten projects a year for the next three years (and for exceptional plans up to £5,000). So, if you have an idea to regenerate outside spaces, empty shops or underused buildings visit www.plymouthoctopus.org/high-street-heritage-action-zone

Image courtesy of Chris Robinson

Plymouth Primary Project

Plymouth Laureate Words 2020-22, Laura Horton, has been working with two local primary schools to create short films for the Plymouth Primary Project.

The first short film, written by Year Five children at St. George’s C of E Primary Academy and recorded by actors from Plymouth Conservatoire, is out now! The project was supported by Millfields Inspired and the £250 a POP fund.

Watch the first film here: https://literatureworks.org.uk/features/inspiring-a-new-generation-of-playwrights-plymouth-laureate-of-words-laura-horton-writes-about-her-plymouth-primary-school-project/?fbclid=IwAR2RfNZpWhlITfADi7H60qouodNqTs0KR2AN96IrMHsVUUQdAp9iePW0zfE

Memory Matters Hub Project Brief 2021

We are looking for enthusiastic, passionate individuals and organisations to help us develop our already beneficial service within the community to reach more people, and continue to provide services that are wanted/needed within the community. 

We have a massive Community Space above Moments Cafe that can be used for all sorts of community projects, and we are looking for your help to develop this with us.

Our mission is to expand our community hub, which is located above the cafe, by creating a similar atmosphere to Moments café. The cafe provides a safe and inclusive space for all, whilst also ensuring it is a dementia friendly environment. We would like to create a space in our current community hub that encompasses a variety of support groups, activities and networks for a range of issues such as mental health, dementia, loneliness, disabilities and inclusion. 

We believe this will be an exciting opportunity for like minded organisations to collectively work together to share ideas and put them into action on how we can best support our community.

Is there anything you think our community is in need of right now? We would love to hear your suggestions, and potentially have further conversations on how we can work together to make these positive changes within our community.

Moments Cafewww.moments-cafe.com

A warm, caring, friendly environment for all. Moments Cafe acts as a subconscious support network for a lot of people. We attract a lot of people through our doors who are vulnerable, and we support them the best we can in the Cafe. However, we want to develop our offer to the community, and start projects upstairs in our Memory Matters Hub which will benefit our customers and the general public. 

Moments Cafe is part of Memory Matters South West CIC (Community Interest Company), with all of our profits going towards supporting people in our community affected by dementia. 

Memory Matters Hubwww.memorymatters.org.uk

Our Memory Matters Hub is located above the Cafe. It is used for our free dementia advice and support, and we have a drop in service available for people to drop in at their convenience, and receive advice and support about anything to do with memory loss or dementia. 

We have two big rooms in our Memory Matters Hub which can be used for activities, workshops, training etc. We also have two smaller rooms, which can be used for smaller gatherings, or one to one meetings/sessions. 

Currently, we offer this space to hire, at an affordable price. However, we want to develop our Hub within the community and make sure that the space upstairs is used by the community, for what the community wants/needs.

Project Criteria:

Dementia Friendly and inclusive to all – 

Memory Matters’ ethos is to enrich the lives of people living with dementia, and to help them thrive in their community; to be visible, valued, and heard. And to also support those affected by dementia in any way we can. 

What we want to achieve: 

Make a positive difference in the community – taking into consideration what the community wants

Support people in regards to Dementia, Social isolation, Mental Health Issues, Loneliness

Workshops/support groups which are Dementia friendly and inclusive to all

Work alongside other organisations who also share our values – (People-focused, Compassionate, Open, Positive, Creative & Fun) – to create positive change

Ideas that could be looked at in regards to projects in our Memory Matters Hub:

  • Mental Health
  • Loneliness
  • Social Isolation
  • Dementia Support
  • Life after Lockdown
  • Bringing the community together 
  • Support Groups
  • Wellbeing/Wellness
  • Physical wellbeing – e.g. Nutrition, activities, keeping active

Suits You Sir!

In January, Jodie Clarke and some friends brought the nationwide project “Take One; Leave One” to Plymouth streets supporting people sleeping rough during winter with clothes, food and toiletries.

An appeal for donations brought a variety of smart clothes, suits and shoes and, after hearing from some of the men they were helping about the challenge to find suitable clothing for a funeral or job interview, a new project, Suited To Help, was born. Coming from a military family and working as the Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Royal Navy Family and People Support, Jodie was particularly aware of the difficulties facing ex-servicemen;

“The transition to civilian life can be difficult for some service personnel and not everyone
would have suitable workwear for an interview.”

With the launch of the project and an appeal for smart clothing so donations have been rolling in from far and wide: people have taken special journeys to bring clothes from all over the south west to Plymouth while surplus ‘menswear’ has been despatched from national companies, such as, Next, Slater Menswear and Asda. Jodie also used the money from the £250 a POP fund to buy some much-needed clothes rails. Before long, Jodie, her Royal Marine husband and four children were fighting for space;

“It has been amazing but for a while you couldn’t move in our house for rails and boxes of clothes! We’ve got a bit of temporary storage, but it would be really great to have somewhere where people could come; try clothes on and leave with something there and then.”

Despite being only a few months old the project has already helped more than twenty unemployed men and veterans dress for the occasion. As Jodie says the impacts of a jacket and tie are often invisible:

“We gave one man a pair of shoes as he only had his trainers to wear to a job interview. He was really worried that he was going to create a bad impression, but he said that wearing the shoes, he felt more confident and was able to concentrate on his performance rather than his appearance. “

As the suits keep coming, it is clear this project has touched a chord with many people. Despite it being designed to help ‘individuals’ it has, says fellow director, Louise Hurley, community at its heart;

“There are some people that we know are on benefits themselves and have still wanted to donate. And we get such decent stuff and I think people are really happy to give it to us because they know it’s going to a good cause; they can see what we’re doing with it and they like to know they are giving back to the community.”

As word spreads and introductions to organisations such as The Plymouth Veterans’ Hub, The Royal British Legion and The YMCA are made so the project grows. What’s needed now, says Jodie, as a priority, is somewhere to store the suits and offer fittings. The next step, she says, is to offer the same help to women so that Suited To Help is providing smart occasional wear to anyone going anywhere significant.

For more information or to donate, contact Jodie at suitedtohelp@gmail.com

3 Years of Esmée Fairbairn Funding

POP started life as a project of the Zebra Collective. From 2013 to 2017, its focus was on building connections between the Voluntary and Community Sector organisations that existed in Plymouth, and then supporting the sector to influence decision making with an explicit focus on building networks.  

When the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF) began discussions with POP in 2017, the language of creating a ‘21st Century CVS’ (Council for Voluntary Services) was introduced:  

“As regards the structural support, we’re keen to explore further the idea of ‘a CVS for the 21st Century’….  Ideas that came up for us were the role of the organisation in brokering, advocacy, coordinating, facilitating new relationships, providing a place for thinking and incubation of ideas, as well as the broader points about being a single point of access and a mechanism for equalising the relationship of the VCS with the local authority. In practice though, what would this look like? We’d encourage you to think flexibly here. …  We’re open to hearing thoughts on how the organisation can remain nimble but still have the desired strategic impact.” 

– Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, April 2017 

The reflections and learning in our work are underpinned by the following beliefs:  

  • In complex environments, healthy networks and collaboration at all levels are fundamental to achieving social change.  
  • Values, ethics and ‘the way we do things’ matter.  
  • Investing in grassroots infrastructure, in diversity and inclusion are both moral and practical imperatives. 
  • A distributed, inclusive approach to leadership, control and power allows the best solutions to emerge. 
  • Not everything works well – but the only true failure is to fail to learn and try to do better next time. 

This report captures key points and lessons from the last three years since that initial conversation, and then suggests a way forward for the organisation. 

CLICK HERE to read POP’s latest learning report in full.

Ready, Steady, Thrive!

A pioneering mental health project is underway in Plymouth in which people with significant and long-term mental health problems are not just benefitting from the Ready Steady Thrive initiative but are helping to deliver it as well. Dan, a former chef, has spent the last four and a half years unemployed, fighting cancer and suffering from depression. Dan admits that at times he was unsure whether he would ‘make it’ but today, he is free-of-cancer, invigorated by exercise and about to start a new career. Dan who took part in the first course of Ready Steady Thrive last autumn says it helped to turn his life around:

“My life has been a bit of a train wreck really and a year ago, I hit a really dark depression and things were spiralling out of control. I was struggling with another bout of cancer; in pain and not exercising; nothing. Now, I’m not even the same guy and Ready Steady Thrive has just been a cog in the whole recovery plan but it’s a really important cog and from that I’m doing alright now.”

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. For some it may be a short-term affliction; others may learn to manage their illness perhaps with medication, counselling or both but, for some less fortunate, it can ruin their lives. Ready Steady Thrive helps people get back on their feet by following ‘the five ways to well-being’. Working through five weekly two-hour zoom sessions it aims to give people basic tools to manage life’s daily ups and downs and help them look forward, one manageable step at a time.

Georgie admits, when she started the course, she was on the edge of a breakdown but with help from her peers, she has been able to overcome some of her fears: “I’ve always struggled to answer the telephone in case it was a male on the other end and we were doing one of the practical parts of the session and someone said, ‘think of a funny face when you answer the phone; one that will make you laugh’ and now I do that every time I answer the phone.”

Georgie admits that one of the biggest lessons she has learnt from the course is to be thankful for things, no matter how small or insignificant. Every night and every morning she writes in her Gratitude Book, she’s now on her second; “It keeps me on a level and on ‘down days’ I can look back and see what I’ve done: even if it’s something silly like I did the ironing, then it goes in the book, because what it shows is that I got off my bum and did the ironing! It’s little things that most people will say ‘that’s stupid’ but no, it’s not stupid; it’s what is needed in some people’s lives and I definitely needed it.”

Being alongside other people who are also experiencing their own challenges enables the individuals to learn from each other, to offer each other possible solutions and coping-strategies. For Dan it has had such a profound effect on his health; his confidence and his life that he is now volunteering as a peer-facilitator on the course; “You have to buy into it and put your trust in the process,” says Dan. “If you’re not mentally well then it’s really hard to do any of these things, but the course has been designed to help you. My support network has grown and when things go wrong now, I’m just about mentally able to cope with it.”

Ready Steady Thrive – which is delivered by the Positive People project under the POP umbrella – is unique to Plymouth and Torbay. It is funded by the Big Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund until September 2022. For more information contact Chris Maccullie on 07951 313163 or Five Ways to Wellbeing chris.m@plymouthoctopus.org.