Conference Spur For Port Grocery

One of the guest speakers at the inaugural Steve Morgan Foundation conference held last year has revealed how the sharing of ideas and best practice has helped push her charity on to even greater heights.

Rita Lewis was one of the keynote speakers at last October’s event at Carden Hall, and told the fascinating story of how she and others have built up the Port Grocery in Ellesmere Port into offering so many more services than just its original identity as a Community Food Club.

We featured the charity on this website towards the end of the year (CLICK HERE TO VIEW), and that article also generated further discussion with the indefatigable Rita now planning to continue to improve and develop the charity’s influence in the local community.

The Steve Morgan Foundation renewed its funding for an Operations Manager for the Port Grocery, and also provided a grant to help provide a storage facility for the tonnes of food which it now collects to pass on to those who need it most.

“It has been like a whirlwind, and non-stop, since the fantastic conference that the Steve Morgan Foundation put on in October,” says Rita.

“I don’t know if it was something in the air but we came away so charged up and have made massive achievements – we were so fired up we have seen opportunities around every corner.

“We have had many visitors come and look at what we do, and this instigated what we call a ‘business in a box’.

“We have put together the do’s and don’ts, best practice, our funders, our suppliers – more or less everything an organisation would need to replicate what we’re doing.

“There is already a copy of us being set up in Blacon, by a local GP who has bought a piece of land at the side of his surgery and more or less built a shop.

“We also have 17 visitors later this month from the North Wales Poverty Truth coming to see us following on from their conference.

“Another great initiative to come out of the conference is that we will be launching our Port Grocery website this month.

“This will include a section called ‘Community Exchange’, where all organisations involved in food can exchange and offer excess food.

“This was one of the things mentioned at the conference, about organisations teaming up, and groups can keep each other updated and galvanise each other and work together.

“We have also been offered numerous opportunities to expand our non-food services, including clothing and footwear, and are also teaming up with Passion for Learning, again from the conference.

“We want our own ‘Enrichment Club’ to run from Trinity Church, where we have been based, and are going  to support them with their existing activities as they are now providing a hot meal for the children.”

On top of the developments which came about following the conference, the Port Grocery have also been contacted by a Doctor of Philosophy who has focused on understanding social and economic networks who is keen to carry out some research.

The Storage Unit has also been completed which allows the charity to hold over 800 additional crates of stock at any one time.

“We are now doing 150 collections a week, have reached our 600 members, and now have 15 paid staff,” adds Rita.

“For the shop this is our long-term sustainability.

“The stock has also enabled us to start a school project, initially on a small scale, and this will expand to support for breakfast clubs in the six weeks holidays plus families that have been identified by the schools that are in need but will not engage. 

“We now have the storage capacity to hold the stock for organisations even if we’re not delivering.

“None of this would have been possible without the stock and that wouldn’t have been possible without the storage the Steve Morgan Foundation has made possible.

“We still have so much more to do and, as the opportunities come by, we grab them with both hands and that is then the catalyst to keep on improving.”

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