Plenty in store for charity at new Dudley base

They describe themselves as the fourth emergency service, helping those with nowhere else to turn.

Loaves N Fishes helps up to 2,000 people from across the Black Country get back on their feet every year.

They include women and men fleeing domestic abuse, former inmates wanting to start new lives after leaving prison and families in housing crisis.

The charity provides recycled furniture, household items and clothing to help people build a home for themselves.

CEO Dave Price from Dudley

It also offers informal skills and employability training through volunteering opportunities with the organisation.

Originally based in Black Heath, Loaves n Fishes moved to new headquarters at Provision House in Dudley High Street where it operates its charity shop, warehouse, workshop and food bank earlier this year.

It is now looking to secure funding to completely refurbish the iconic building that started life as the Cooperative Emporium department store in 1939 before becoming Toppe Shoppe and more recently Blunts Shoes.

Chief executive Mark Price said: "Our charity gives out furniture, household goods and clothing to those who are in desperate need. We train volunteers and get them ‘job ready' and we work with other local charities, churches and councils to target the help where it is most needed."

Marion Green from Rowley, CEO Dave Price from Dudley and shop manager Sue Pemberton, with one of the more unusual items on the shop floor..

The charity, which has around 50 volunteers, relies on donations of furniture and other items from the public for its work and to stock its shop.

"For every item we receive we make a decision about what it's suitable for. A lot of people we help have small flats or bedsits so they don't want large pieces of furniture so we will sell these in the shop but smaller items will be put aside for someone who needs them.

"We provide everything from kettles to settees and beds and pictures and rugs if we have them. There is a basic package but then we can provide little extras to make it more of a home. We never turn anyone away, we always help if we can," explains Mark.

There is also a workshop team that upcycles or re-purposes pieces of furniture that may need refurbishing before they are ready to be sold.

Jean Cox from Oldbury and Donneth Phillips from Quarry Bank, in the sorting room

At the moment the charity also operates a food bank from the building but is looking to work more closely with Black Country Food Bank in the future.

"The plan is that Black Country Food Bank would provide the emergency supplies and we would offer a food pantry scheme which is where people pay a small subscription each week and they can choose their own items, which you can't do at a food bank. We would also offer healthy eating and cooking advice.

"People find it difficult going from have to visit a food bank to shopping in the supermarket,it's a big jump, so the pantry would help them on the road to self-sufficiency," explains Mark.

At the moment the charity is looking at how to make the most of its building, which includes a roof-top space, and also open it up to other organisations in the area.

It has a secured secured a £10,000 Big Lottery grant to carry out a feasibility study for the upcoming refurbishment project.

CEO Dave Price from Dudley

"We are currently using approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the building for our offices, charity shop, shabby chic workshop, food bank and warehousing but the rest is free.

"Our vision is to make the rest a hub for like-minded organisations so that we can provide a joined up approach to providing help," says Mark.

The organisation has already opened its doors to others as it is providing a temporary home to the Top Church congregation while renovation work in their building takes place.

"There is a lot of potential here and it would be great to have similar organisations here so that we can put people we are helping in contact with other agencies.

"Although we do that now people don't always make it to them, sometimes it's too far for them to travel if they don't have transport or they might feel intimidated. But if we're all in the same building it will be much easier for them to access further support," explains Mark.

The charity is always on the look out for more volunteers - see www.loavesnfishes.co.uk

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