Findon Village shops saved from closure by residents
A Post Office and Findon Village Store in Findon, West Sussex, which were saved from closure thanks to its local community, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award available to local volunteer groups across the UK.
Back in May 2017, residents awoke to a notice in the window of the Findon Village Store and Post Office announcing its permanent closure. Shocked but undaunted, villagers rose to the challenge of saving this much needed village asset.
The Chairman of the Parish Council held an open meeting in a packed village hall where it was proposed that villagers and local people could buy “shares” in order to raise sufficient funds to bid for the property at auction. Astonishingly, in just over a week they raised over £400K, enough to make a successful bid, re-furbish, and buy suitable stock to get started.
Advice from the Plunkett Foundation proved useful in setting up this Community Benefit Society and the new company was registered with the Financial Services Authority and Companies House.
To the relief of the community and thanks to the dedication and expertise of the volunteer painters, decorators and recruitment team, the ‘Findon Village Collective’ opened its doors in October 2017, less than 6 months after the original business closed.
Findon Village Store supporting the local community
The Findon Village Store has a reputation as a useful, friendly, welcoming and attractive addition to Findon village. Other than a full-time manager and a remunerated team operating the Post Office Counter, all involved, from the management committee to all who clean, serve behind the counter, and buy the stock are volunteers – a team with a rich variety of life and professional skills, willingly shared.
Purchases are from local providers wherever possible and deliveries are made to people who are housebound or unable to carry their shopping home.
All profits are returned to the community. Support is provided to the local pre-school play group and Christmas hampers have been provided for families in need. The Post Office is run at a commercial loss because the village needs the huge range of banking and financial services it provides. Social housing is provided in its own property.
Informal and advice is always available from the groups and networks using their local shop as a social meeting point and it even functions as a tourist and information centre. The Findon Village Store is an initiative ‘for the community by the community’.
Steve Smith, who chaired the Management Committee through the long and detailed application process, said: “We are extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated and capable team of volunteers, many of whom are always looking for what more we can do to help others and how we can do better job. We take pride in the appearance of our store and see customer service as the focus of our engagement.
“If anyone asks for help, the answer is never anything than “of course we can. We look to provide support and help to others beyond our immediate community through sharing our experience with others in need of such support. I am so pleased and proud that the contribution of all our volunteers has been recognised by this outstanding award.”
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities. Equivalent to an MBE it was created in 2002 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee and anniversary of The Queen’s coronation.
Any group doing volunteer work that provides a social, economic or environmental service to the local community can be nominated for the award. Each group is assessed on the benefit it brings to the local community and its standing within that community.
Nominations for the 2023 awards can be submitted until the 15th September this year and judges are looking forward to hearing about the ways in which local groups of volunteers are devising and running services to help change lives in their community.
The standard expected is very high, as the award is an Honour equivalent to an MBE; however there is no such thing as a typical QAVS awardee. They cover a wide, diverse range of activities from theatre groups to food banks, dementia clubs, local radio stations and more.
Any group of two or more people that has undertaken voluntary work for more than three years can be nominated for the Award. Full details on how to nominate a group are available at qavs.culture.gov.uk