A ‘Positive Impact’ From Birkenhead Charity

A charity which provides various services to the people of Birkenhead has highlighted the impact of a three-year funding grant from the Steve Morgan Foundation.

The Oak Community Project, run by Birkenhead Priory Parish, helps those on the fringes of the community by providing essential items including food and clothing, but also a listening ear and valuable advice as well as encouraging more integration within their local area.

A grant of £32,000 over three years from the Steve Morgan Foundation helped with funding for a Community and Family Worker, integral to the charity’s organisation.

The Oak Community Project was launched in 2012, and delivers services including a soup lunch, a recycled clothing and household goods stall, and the distribution of community food bags.

But the other help can come via skilled volunteers assisting visitors with practical advice in terms of housing or other needs or offering signposting to debt counselling, drug and alcohol abuse services.

“The project has positively impacted on many lives in various ways in the immediate community not just with food and clothes, but also with listening ears,” explains Paul Bentley, Vicar of Birkenhead Priory Parish.

“Community cohesion is evident as we see sub-groups of people sitting together willing to help and support each other, and the hard to reach and isolated find a safe place to join in as much or as little as they wish.

“The project is open to all ages, the youngest being five months and the oldest being 80.

“It also provides a platform for other community groups to integrate with ours – for example the Family Tree outreach worker comes in each week and is available to help with any benefit or housing issues, and two community connectors from Involve Northwest visit weekly to connect with those accessing the project.

“We also continue to provide social events where the community comes together for BBQs, fairs, bingo, picnic in the park and other such events.

“At Christmas we give around 60 food hampers to folks in our community and to others connected with us via other organisations, with toy sacks included in some of the hampers.

“This year’s community BBQ coincided with the Royal Wedding which was televised inside and one of the comments that struck me from an older member of our community was this: ‘If you hadn’t had this on, I’d have been sitting at home alone, not able to share the joy with anyone else’.

“It is comments like these that make our jobs worthwhile knowing that the life of another has been enhanced by those in the community pulling together.”

The numbers accessing The Oak Community Project have been on the increase, with often over 200 new contacts made on a monthly basis.

Once engaged with the charity, clients are encouraged to volunteer, and Rev Bentley has seen many positive examples of progress in this area.

“In all this there is a positive challenge, because as people grow and blossom through the work of the project they are ‘upskilled’, often moving on to find paid employment or other voluntary work.

“Thus we ‘lose’ them as they move onwards and upwards, though contact is often maintained through community events or if further support is needed.

“This provides a positive model for current volunteers to see.”

The funding for the role will now be maintained via an endowment fund held through the Church of England, and Rev Bentley remains extremely appreciative of the grant from the Steve Morgan Foundation.

“The funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation enabled us to employ a Community and Family Worker to manage, develop and grow this project,” he explains.

“This hugely increased our impact and effectiveness in offering appropriate support to our local community, transforming individual lives and increasing aspirations, as well as providing a safe environment in which other support agencies within the community can provide necessary services.

“Having that three-year funding stream meant that the focus of our work could be on the people, not chasing the funding.

“This allowed time to evaluate and develop the project, which in turn benefitted the community we serve.

“I just want to pass on a huge thank you to the Steve Morgan Foundation, both from the community and from me.”


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