Plunkett’s project support officer, George Ogier, provides an overview of the team’s recent visit to Amberley, near Stroud in Gloucestershire.

At Plunkett, with the generous support of Benefact Trust, we want to bring places of worship and community businesses together – so that they can utilise underused space whilst kick-starting businesses that can benefit their wider community.

To help groups and churches explore the opportunities of locating within an active church or building we’ve partnered with Benefact Trust to offer free bespoke advice to community business groups and churches. This is to help them explore the potential of a church or its grounds as a possible from venue for a community business. You can read more about this support here.

Amberley Community Shop and Cafe

One such enterprise who has benefited from Plunkett and Benefact Trust’s partnership is Amberley Shop and Café in Gloucestershire.

When the last shop in the village closed in 2017, the community held a meeting with the idea of establishing a new hub. The plan was for something which could be sustainably run and would provide, among other things, a place to meet, employment opportunities for the community, and a shop selling quality local produce.

Various venues were looked at before an agreement was made with the Holy Trinity Church in the village. Thanks to support from Benefact Trust, Plunkett, and the tireless work of locals the shop opened in June 2023 and so far, the results are overwhelmingly positive.

Plunkett members host staff ‘away day’

Plunkett were able to witness the fantastic work in person after the Amberley committee generously agreed to host an ‘away day’ for the team on the proviso that we all rolled up our sleeves and helped out with various jobs in the shop and the grounds of the church.

A beautiful shop sign standing high in the churchyard leaves you in no doubt that you’ve come to the right place. One of the first things that strikes you is how sympathetically the shop has been designed. It flows seamlessly into the church and the quality of the transformation is immediately evident. The fact that the church looks like it was always designed with the shop in mind is a testament to the great working relationship fostered between the church and the committee.

Unsurprisingly, the welcome was as warm as the unseasonable sunshine that accompanied our arrival, and the team was able to learn more about the project thanks to a talk from project Chair, Neil Truphet and other committee members. It has been an auspicious start for the shop and café who are exceeding turnover expectations and already looking to employ another paid member of staff to supplement the EIGHTY volunteers who regularly help.

The Plunkett team put to work

Formalities done; it was time to get to work! The Plunkett team were split into four groups and dispatched to various corners of the church with much to do. We had a gang of painters readying a space for an accessible toilet, some people were organising a recent delivery in the stock room (no idea where that missing chocolate went!). Budding baristas were shown the ropes in the café and outside it was a mix of planting bulbs and power-washing picnic benches.

The team threw themselves into the tasks with great gusto and hopefully, the results were beneficial. It’s a huge motivation for everyone at Plunkett to be able to get out and see the results of what happens at our offices, combined with the hard work of the people ‘on the ground’. We are always looking for opportunities to help out beyond our traditional offerings and this trip to one of our members in Amberley was no exception.

We’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone involved in the Amberley Shop & Café for their warm hospitality. It’s a wonderfully run project and they are a fantastic example of a community-owned business and the impact it can have.

If you would like to find out more about Plunkett’s work with Benefact Trust you can email or call 01993 630022.

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