Worthing Covid support group set to open permanent hub, finally fulfilling the dream
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Margaret Howard, Worthing borough councillor for Broadwater, retired midwife Pat Schan and Margaret’s husband Phil are the core team behind Broadwater Support Group and it has long been their dream to open a community hub.
They have faced some knock-backs along the way, including losing a premises in Broadwater almost as soon as they were told they could have it, but have now secured a permanent base in South Farm Road, with a five-year lease.
Margaret, who also volunteers at Worthing Food Foundation, said: "We have remained independent to retain more control and because we have slightly different needs. It is quite exciting because people not only need food, they need wrap-around care. We want to get people out of their homes and to be able to go for a coffee. We will be running a café where people pay what they can afford."
The Broadwater group works alongside Worthing Food Foundation but operates separately. Margaret, a former science teacher, set it up in March 2020 to deliver food and prescriptions to people during the Covid restrictions.
She said: "Now, there are less emergencies than there are regular people who need help and I always wanted to do outreach as well as the food. We have been offering support with school uniforms and we will hopefully be storing these at the hub."
In the past three years, the group has had a few bases but has had to keep moving for various reasons. The most recent was in Broadwater Street West, a place that was offered for free until it was let but it ended up being let very quickly.
Margaret said: "We got so disheartened when we had put all that work in and made all the plans. We had to pack it all up again and put it into storage. Every since then, we have been looking for premises and raising money so we could pay a rent.
"It is quite exciting now that we can see it all happening. The hub will be a meeting place for people. There is space to mingle and people can help each other. We will have a small room at the back for private interviews, like social prescribing and an employment adviser. It will help people take a step out of where they are stuck."
There will also be community pantry, where people will be able to buy store cupboard items at a fraction of the cost. Pat will also be setting up a pet pantry to help people feed their animals.
Margaret said: "Without food providers like us, people would starve and that is not being dramatic, that is how it is."
The hub is not quite ready yet but once everything is set up, it will be open Tuesday to Saturday. Donations of food are welcomed at the hub and donations can also be made online at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/broadwater-support-group-community-hub