- It is a vital part of the Big Society that people feel they can
give, they can contribute, and they can play a part. To me that
is a really important vision for the future of our country.
Prime Minister, David Cameron
Award Winner: The Welcome
The Welcome was formed in the late 1990’s by people in Knutsford Methodist Church, to provide services in a challenged area. The Longridge and Shaw Heath areas of Knutsford are Manchester overspill estates, and share many of the challenging characteristics of more urban housing estates.
Since the start it has continuously adapted to meet the changing needs of the community, but at the heart of The Welcome has been somewhere that people can come just for a drink, to meet and make friends and enjoy being part of the community. Its independence is also critical to people’s engagement. The Welcome is seen as something that belongs to the people, and is not part of Government, The Council, Social Services, The Landlords etc. Those barriers to entry don’t exist, and that has been key to the on-going growth.
The role of the local Methodist Church in sustaining and growing The Welcome has been critical, with both financial and volunteer contributions.
As the range of activities and usage grew, The Welcome became a stand-alone independent Charity seeking out new streams of funding and partners.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
At the heart of The Welcome now is the café, serving drinks, sandwiches, all day breakfasts and daily specials. People of all ages come into The Welcome to use the café; some because it offers companionship, mums with small kids it offers a break, and the chance for the kids to play together, others because it’s the only meal they get. Pricing is set low in order to allow people in.
The success of the café and its reach into the community delivers a great audience for the many support activities happening at The Welcome:
For Children and Young people there is a regular youth club, a healthy eating cooking club, weekly family film nights, a craft and activity session, a dads and toddlers group plus a range of holiday activities including theatre dance and sport. With the recent addition of a new football pitch, The Welcome are organising football teams to enter local leagues. A project supporting young people in school to give them facilities to do homework started in 2011.
For adults, there is a Job Club aimed at equipping local people (and beyond) with the skills and knowledge to find employment; there is a credit union to help people budgeting and remove the spectre of long-term high interest debt; there are keep fit and craft classes for the over 50s. Equipping people with the right skills is important and the adult education programme of Numeracy, Literacy and ICT skills is always popular, giving students recognised qualifications to take into the world of employment.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BIG SOCIETY AWARDS WINNER
Winning the award has been fantastic for The Welcome. The actual recognition is wonderful. After 15 years of hard work and commitment, the fact that we have been seen and congratulated at a national level is huge thank you for what has gone before, and importantly an inspiration to keep it going.
The Welcome has actively used that recognition to help us achieve many of our goals. The associated publicity has directly assisted our programme of building partnerships that will have long-term gain. This has brought new money in, partners who can assist with many of the support activities, and a new high profile Patron that brings its own benefits.
The Award also assists when bidding for funding and contracts. Our experience is that as a small organisation rooted within a particular community, we were often overlooked. The Award has changed that. The publicity has brought senior councillors and officers through the door, and other organisations have come to see what The Welcome’s blueprint is. It also provides verification for any commissioning body or funder that there is track record of success.
From The Welcome’s experience we have used the award to win new funding and work, which will sustain the Welcome well into the future
OUR TOP TIP
When entering the Awards, treat it very seriously, and give as much evidence on how you have made a difference, what is the outcome of all your work, rather than focusing on the organisation and how well they have done, and the recognition they have.
If you are lucky enough to win, then never shy away from talking about it. Always pre-fix your charity name with the term “The award winning…”. People do want to talk about that. Use the fact that you have won the award in the honeymoon period following to contact and invite people that you really want to be seen by or work with. They like to be associated with success.