Richmond community centre example of ‘big society’


Zac Goldsmith MP joined officials at the grand opening of the Vineyard Community Centre yesterday.


By Joe Gammie

Zac Goldsmith MP declared a new community centre was an example of the “Big Society” at its grand opening in Richmond yesterday.

The Vineyard Community Centre brings together groups from the whole of Richmond, including churches, businesses, residents and a team of volunteers, to offer support to the borough’s homeless.

Mr Goldsmith cut the ribbon with Reverend Bob Kimmering of the Vineyard Congregational Church in front a crowd comprising of supporters, clients and well-wishers.

“It just shows that this is a community effort,” Mr Goldsmith said. “This is the big society.”

Reverend Kimmering, who is also Director of the Vineyard Community Centre, has spearheaded the campaign to replace the Vineyard Project which closed last May.

Mr Goldsmith was joined by Councillor Pamela Fleming, Cabinet Member for Community, Business and Culture, in praising Reverend Kimmering for bringing the community together to set up the centre.

Cllr Fleming said: “I am really thrilled at being involved in this great community project. It’s the Big Society in action.”

The project raised more than £17,000 through various fundraising drives, including £10,000 by offering people the chance to become ‘friends of the Vineyard’.

Each of the 100 friends bought a patch of cloth for £100, and all the patches were sewn together to form a patchwork bag, the Vineyard Centre’s logo.

In February, Richmond Council gave the centre £5,000 towards refurbishments.

Every day the centre will offer a morning drop-in session as a refuge for people in crisis, providing food, clothing and washing facilities between 8.30-11am.

During these hours, various organisations will be providing outreach services to the homeless community.

Richmond charity SPEAR will be using the facilities one day a week to keep in touch with rough-sleepers in the borough.

As well as their own 14-bed hostel, SPEAR provide an outreach team, a tenancy support service, a rent deposit scheme, a young person’s project, and work with people with drugs and alcohol problems.

Stuart Nevill, SPEAR director, said: “I think what is really important about this community centre is that there is a large group of vulnerable people who are in trouble and it is very hard for charities like us to reach them and engage with them.

“That is why this community centre is so important for us.”

The Metropolitan Police will also be using the centre to keep in touch with homeless people.

Safe neighbourhood Sergeant Rafael Nadal attended the opening yesterday and said that he hoped that the Met would be a regular feature of the Vineyard Community Centre.

“We just wanted people to know that we are working very closely with the community and to be an established point of contact to engage with the clients,” he said. “We will be here as often as we can.”

A community café will run in the afternoons to help bring people similar circumstances together so they can support each other and escape social exclusion.

Originally called a youth café, 6AQ aims to provide youth in Richmond a place to go in the evenings.

Kevin Westbury, youth worker and youth pastor, explained that Richmond doesn’t have many facilities for young people, and this is why he is providing 6AQ.

“If you imagine a pub without alcohol and with young people instead of adults, that’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “It is a place where young people can come and socialise with their friends.”

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