Wolves Foundation and The Good Shepherd have teamed up with the City of Wolverhampton Council to unveil plans for a ground-breaking new project at the historic Queen’s Building in the city centre.
The project will offer residents a venue offering a community shop with a difference, a café complete with charging points to stay connected and a first-floor suite offering financial advice and training information geared to help people through the cost of living crisis and beyond.
The shop element will be the latest in a network of community shops the council has pioneered across the city, but this one will be the flagship store.
The innovative project will also feature a new social enterprise café, thanks to funding from national charity SJOG Hospitaller Services, but project is about far more than just providing practical support with affordable food.
It will also incorporate a multi-use space to deliver support and interventions that alleviate poverty and build financial stability for generations to come.
The Queen’s Building, one of the city’s architectural gems, will house training rooms and offices available to rent by community groups and partner agencies, with the overall aim of helping people make positive progress in different areas of their lives.
The Good Shepherd’s work with the project will be in addition to continuing to operate their own food service at their centre opposite Molineux on Waterloo Road.
“We are really excited to be working with Wolves Foundation and the City of Wolverhampton Council to join the Community Shop network in the city,” says the Good Shepherd’s service manager Lucy Cox.
“With our Family Food pantry, we have experienced an increase in demand over the last 12 months and are seeing a whole new raft of people coming to us who haven’t previously needed to access support.
“The Queen’s building is a wonderful building which will offer a dignified shopping experience for people to purchase food at affordable prices, and also hopefully those who have accessed the Good Shepherd’s food service and are ready to make progress.
“Providing affordable food is just one part of the different services that will be on offer and we are also really excited about running the Community Café in the building, which will also provide training and employment opportunities for people with lived experience.”
For Wolves Foundation, their fundraising support of project is an additional strand and ultimately a legacy for their Feed Our Pack initiative, now into its third year, which offers food and other support to people feeling the effects of different forms of poverty.
“We are delighted to be announcing plans for what is a really exciting project with our long-standing partners the Good Shepherd and the City of Wolverhampton Council,” said Tom Warren, senior manager (projects) with Wolves Foundation.
“As well as the shop which will provide food at affordable prices, we are also planning to provide additional services including work around employability and one-to-one support for individuals to help them with any issues they may be facing.
“It is going to be a gateway for the people who use it towards making positive and sustained changes to their lives.
“Feed Our Pack has been one of the biggest projects the Foundation have ever undertaken, and it has proved so important in helping people affected by the pandemic and the challenges faced with the increased cost of living.
“We have achieved so much and worked with so many great partners, but this project is a development which will ensure we can sustain that network and continue to help people who may need different types of support over a longer period of time.”
The venue, in the Queen’s Building which was built in 1849, will become the flagship of the community shops that have been rolled out by the City of Wolverhampton Council.
Deputy leader of the Council, Councillor Stephen Simkins said: “This will be a real first for the city, there is nothing like this project and it is a great addition to the already successful network of community shops we’ve rolled out with partners, which are helping residents save at least £30 a week on their groceries in these tough times.
“But this goes further than that and can help people transform their lives with advice on managing their finances and access to training which can open career opportunities. It’s going to be a great venue, as soon as we open the doors, why don't you come along and pay us a visit?
“It’s for anyone who wants to make the most of their money and also make the most of opportunities for a better, more prosperous life.”
The day-to-day operation of venue will be run by staff and volunteers from the Good Shepherd and Wolves Foundation, with both charities using the additional space to deliver other projects to support the people of the city.
Work is currently underway transforming the interior of the Queen’s Building and the partners will announce shortly when the grand unveiling takes place and it’s ready to open its doors.