A community hub in the centre of Exeter will be one of the first to benefit from a new fund designed to help residents shape local services.
Members of Exeter Board have granted St Sidwells Centre almost £14,000 so they can develop their volunteer programme.
The popular centre, which opened in 2001, offers a wide range of services, activities and facilities for the local community, including affordable room hire, internet access and a community garden and café.
Over 20 local groups use the centre, and last year it attracted over 25,000 visitors.
Run by five part-time staff and a bank of over fifty volunteers, the centre receives no regular external funding, and continues to be supported by donations and the revenue generated by room hire and the community café.
However, due to the current financial climate, the income from renting space has decreased significantly over the past two years.
This additional funding from the Exeter Board will finance a part-time volunteer co-ordinator for a year to help the centre build on the success of their volunteering opportunities and develop a programme that offers volunteers training and skilled support in order to make the most of their experience.
The money will also help meet additional volunteer recruitment costs such as publicity, training and CRB checks.
Peter Perkins, Treasurer of the St Sidwells Centre, said:
“This funding is a welcome boost to our centre, which is an important facility for people both in the local area and across the city.
“A vibrant, multi-cultural resource for the whole community, the centre is seen by residents as a safe place where they can come to meet with others and enjoy an affordable hot meal.
“We only manage to operate because of the help and commitment from our volunteers who give their time to support us with caretaking, sitting on reception, gardening and operating our community café.
“Many of the volunteers have had physical and mental health problems, and spent a significant amount of time out of work, so the volunteering opportunities we offer also help people develop their skills and provide a route back into employment when otherwise they could feel marginalised or isolated.
“This funding will help us better develop and invest in our team of volunteers, and ensure we maintain the success of the centre in the future by continuing to work together to build a healthier, stronger and more inclusive community.”
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, chairman of the Exeter Board, said:
“Exeter is a city with strong communities, and this project is exactly the sort of thing we want to be investing in as we explore new and different ways of working together to better serve these communities.
“By helping the centre develop their capacity to support volunteers, we are helping ensure a sustainable future for a well loved and well used community resource.
“Working together is the key, and this is an excellent example of working to benefit the community at a truly local level by empowering people to make a real difference to their own quality of life.
“We are determined to maximise the benefits of this fund and achieve best value from our spending by targeting resources and investing in the things that residents tell us are most important to them.”