Ilford Salvation Army Centre
In December 2013, the National Churches Trust awarded a £10,000 Community Grant to the Ilford Salvation Army Centre
The funding went towards creating a new entrance area (which includes a kitchenette, accesible toilet and drop-in café area) and the internal refurbishment of the main worship space (the redecoration and removal of a stage), where bicycle workshops run by the Recycles social enterprise take place.
Suzy Minett, the Grants and Local Trusts Officer, and Alex Macpherson, Fundraising Officer, report on the positive impact of the works part-funded by the National Churches Trust.
According to the 2010-2013 Borough Investment Programme, 13 of the wards in Redbridge fall in the 20% most deprived wards in the country. 10 of these are located in the south of the borough, the areas that surround the Ilford Salvation Army. Many have neither work nor the skills to give confidence in seeking and securing employment. The Salvation Army aimed to reach out to our society's vulnerable people by offering them practical support and tools to improve their situation.
Visiting the Ilford Salvation Army Centre in August 2014, one of the first things we noticed was the clean, bright and modern design of the new frontage and reception/meeting space with tea and coffee facilities. Sofas and table with chairs make the space feel welcoming and homely. A disabled toilet and step-free entrance to the centre make it accessible to those with mobility issues.
According to Lieutenant John Clifton (who manages the centre with Naomi Clifton), one of the regular users of the building (who is currently homeless) has said that the new space provides a welcome rest from the outside world, where visitors can find shelter, peace and quiet away from the busy high street nearby. Free tea and coffee is provided to anyone who visits.
The Parent and Toddler group (usually 25 families) that meets twice a week has particularly benefitted from the refurbished space as the children are able to move around more freely in a safe area. The removal of the stage area has meant that they could potentially accommodate 8 more families, which the Centre would like to encourage.
"The improvements made to the centre provide so many new opportunities for us as a church; the environment is so much more open and welcoming, which will help us a great deal in reaching out to members of the local community. The support of the National Churches Trust has enabled this to happen" - Bonnie Chappell, Trust Fundraising Manager
Impact of our grant, and the project it helped fund :
- the work has enhanced the condition of the building and new facilities have made a big difference to attracting people into the building and helping them to feel comfortable in a clean and dignified environment;
- the project has benefited the wider community – the grant has enabled the church to provide a variety of services to suit the needs of wider communities including those with disabilities and families with children;
- the project has benefited the congregation by providing more flexibility to organizing workshops and activities.
The Recycles project
One of the main projects to benefit from the refurbishment works is the Recycles project. This volunteer-led social enterprise (also sponsored by London Borough of Redbridge) involves recycling, repairing and selling secondhand bicycles that are donated to the centre from individuals. Any profits from selling the recycled bicycles are put back into the project. More information about the project can be found at http://recycles-ilford.co.uk/.
Volunteers take apart and repair bicycles in the main worship area, covered in plastic sheeting for the work. One of the volunteers leads the workshop and trains the others in bicycle mechanics. The workshops take place on Monday and Friday every week.
The Ilford Salvation Army centre is keen to provide training in skills such as bicycle repair mechanics to the centre users (many of whom are homeless or unemployed) as a way for them to find employment in the future. They are currently exploring the possibility of providing those involved in the workshops with the opportunity to obtain a City & Guilds vocational qualification, which would hopefully allow them to find employment in the future.
There is an accessible toilet and step-free entrance in the new frontage area, making it accessible to those with mobility issues. There is also a ramp leading from the main worship space to the other parts of the building, where there is a meeting room/ dining area for those using the night shelter and for those attending the brunch every Saturday, and where the Baby Bank items (such as baby clothing) are stored for parents that may need them.
Increased use of the building
Although the facilities have only recently been installed (Spring 2014), Lieutenant John Clifton says that the centre has been noticeably busier since the refurbishment works have been completed. More people have been using the entrance area as there were no such facilities for informal gatherings before, and more people have been dropping in as they pass by the building. They are keen to attract more people to the frontage area to use it as a café (similarly to the Salvation Army Centre in Chalk Farm, Camden for example).
Engagement with the wider community
The Ilford Salvation Army Centre already has strong relationships with those in the local community that it supports (homeless community, unemployed people, young families, etc.), and other community and local authority organizations (such as the housing association nearby). They also have approximately 200 volunteers (from within and outside the congregation) who help run the programmes at the centre.
However, they are keen to develop the support from local people and reach out to those in the wider borough. They are always looking for new ways to help different groups of people within their local community, though they were keen to stress that the ideas for the programmes often come from the users themselves.
Although our visit was quite soon after the project had been completed, the Ilford Salvation Army Centre has been able to easily accommodate their existing activities into the newly refurbished centre and users have readily embraced the new facilities.
Whilst the staff and volunteers have always been keen to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere at the centre, Lieutenant John Clifton said that the new facilities made a big difference to attracting people into the building and helping them to feel comfortable in a clean and dignified environment.
Particularly impressive is their enthusiasm and passion for helping others, and their ability to find practical solutions to the social problems that many of the building’s users experience and to enable stakeholders to support themselves in the future.
In summary, it was gratifying to be able to see the positive impact of the National Churches Trust’s £10,000 Community Grant in helping the Ilford Salvation Army Centre to realise their vision for more accessible and appropriate facilities for the different users that they support in their local community.
The building is open daily 9am to 5pm.
The church came runner up in the the National Churches Trust's, Marsh Awards for Innovative Projects 2016. See here.