St Peters Community Centre in Westfield, Yeovil, is a facility for the whole community. It’s a hub for many local groups, and is a welcoming warm space for all. We spoke to Marie Rice, manager at the community centre, who told us how, thanks to their £1,000 warm space grant from our Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Fund, they’re now opening their doors to their community for longer.
“Everyone is welcome here at the community centre, we’re open to all. We see a diverse range of people here, from babies through to our oldest regular, who is 86.
We’ve noticed how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people since the weather turned colder. Many people don’t have enough money to put the heating on at the moment. We’ve seen a lot more people coming in for hot meals, which we’ve been offering Monday to Wednesday every week.
People think about food and bills when they think of the cost-of-living crisis, but it’s so much more than that. And we have lots of resources here to try and reduce the effects of it.
We have a school uniform clothes rack which has uniforms and shoes for all the schools in Yeovil – all donated by the community. And we have a clothes rail full of other clothing and coats in all shapes and sizes that have been donated. They’re cleaned and ironed and ready to go. And we’ve set up a mirror so people can try them on first and see how they look.
With our warm space funding, we’ve extended our hours. We’re now open on Thursdays, we’re going to be trialling Fridays shortly and in the spring we’re looking at an evening service, too.
We offer free coffee, tea and homemade cake all day and we serve a hot meal at lunchtime. If there’s any leftovers we box it up for our users and they take it home so they can have it for their dinner. Nothing gets thrown away or wasted.
If we weren’t here I honestly don’t know what a lot of our members would do. Where would they go? How would they keep warm?
There would be a lot more people in our community experiencing social isolation, and the loss of the community centre would be devastating for many of them. We see the change in people from how they were when they first visited to how they are once they’ve connected and started to feel part of our community. They create their own support network – recently one of our regulars hadn’t come in because she was at home with flu and another user took a meal round to her house for her. They didn’t know each other before they started coming here.
Fairly recently a new user walked in off the street. He looked shell shocked and the first words that came out of his mouth were: “I’ve just lost my job. I’ve got rent to pay, I’m going to lose everything.” So we made him a cup of tea, and contacted the local housing association who have a drop-in session here every week. They’ve helped him apply for jobs, created a CV with him and given him advice on all sorts of things.
It’s absolutely amazing what we’ve achieved here and I’m so very proud. And I just couldn’t do it all without all my volunteers – they’re outstanding.”