Waste Not Want Not wins charity of the year

We are delighted that Waste Not Want Not  has been crowned Charity of the Year at the South West Business Awards.

The Chippenham group, which has previously received a grant from us, was named winner ahead of nine other charities at the ceremony in Swindon on Thursday night. They help impoverished families furnish their homes whilst also providing work experience and volunteering opportunities to help people back into the work place.

Chairman Ray Dawson and manager Phil Reade collected the award on behalf of the group’s staff and army of volunteers.

Mr Dawson said: “To win such a prestigious award in the face of really serious competition is so amazing. It feels like the work that we do for those with the least in life and for those with nothing at all has finally been recognised.

"For our staff, volunteers and trustees, this means so much and the award is for all the people on the team who work so hard to achieve what they do. As chairman, I have always known that our charity is special and this award confirms it.”

The group is also a finalist in the Chippenham BID charity of the year competition.

Waste Not Want Not collects unwanted furniture and  household items in good condition and sells them at affordable prices to low income families from its showroom in Hungerdown Lane. At its simplest level it is just a furniture shop - but it does far more than that.

“We give people the opportunity to have a bit of dignity in buying furniture at a price they can afford that makes their home look nice. It gives them some self-respect,” said staff member Jason Hale.

He has been involved with the charity for 16 years, first as a volunteer but then as one of the charity’s two paid members of staff. In his role as collections and deliveries supervisor he organises his team of volunteers to make collections and deliveries all over the county.

He knows only too well the positive impact the charity makes on those it helps. His first contact with it was as a customer himself.

He said: “I moved to Corsham from Wales and my partner and I had nothing. We popped in and were helped. I got chatting to one of the staff here because he was Welsh too. Then I started volunteering.

“I love working here because of the self-worth you get from helping people. You can really lift them and I know what it feels like to be in their shoes.”

Mr Reade said the policy of the charity is to keep the prices of the furniture as low as possible. If items don’t sell immediately they are reduced in price. Non-sellers are usually given away free.

“We are proud that we keep the furniture out of landfill,” he said. “Last year we provided more than 2,600 people with 75 tonnes of furniture.”

The number of people helped rose from 1,800 the previous year.

The charity has had to install CCTV to stop fly-tippers dumping furniture outside the showroom after Wiltshire Council cut its recycling centre opening hours and introduced a permit system.

As well as low income families, victims of domestic violence, people previously homeless, those who have lost everything in a house fire and refugee families have also been helped.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation has funded the charity to the tune of £5,000 a year for the next three years.

“We really appreciate the money,” said Mr Reade. “The funding is vital because it helps us keep our prices low. If we had to charge more to cover our running costs then there would be a lot of people who could not afford it.”

Customer service volunteers Rose Loud and  Julie Butt have devised a deposit scheme that allows customers to put a deposit on items if they don’t enough money with them. A new Facebook site also allows people to see furniture online and pay by phone if needed.

The charity also relies on volunteers, many of whom have been long-term unemployed. Sue Dahlman has been volunteering for two-and-a-half years after spending more than six months without a job.

 “I love it here,” she said. “There is such an eclectic mix of people and we all get along. But the most rewarding thing is helping the people who come in.

“So many of them have not got  a lot of money and it gives them a bit of self-respect that they can come in here and are able to afford to buy things.”

Of the 35 volunteers who worked with the charity in 2017, nine left to go to full-time jobs, having been given the skills and confidence to apply.

Among the volunteers have been workers with special needs, the elderly and people on community service. One man with a track record of alcohol-related violence turned his life around and got a new job after three months at WNWN.

Mr Reade said:  “We have got a wonderful team here who work hard to give people the best service possible.”

Find out more about  the charity at waste-not-want-not.org.uk or find it on Facebook.

Pictured: Phil Reade, left, and Ray Dawson,centre, receive their award