Community pop-up shop is there to help Sawbridgeworth families in time of need
Members of the community who have fallen on hard times during the pandemic are being supported by Sawbridgeworth Evangelical Congregational Church (SECC).
In February, the London Road place of worship opened its Community Pop-Up Shop and invited cash-strapped families to fill their shopping bags for free on Wednesdays (1pm-3pm) and Saturdays (10am-midday).
Unlike a food bank, residents are able to turn up and take what they need; they do not need a referral from front-line professionals.
Church minister the Rev Gary Hanson said: “Other crisis support can have a lot of red tape, but this is meant to feel like a shop without a till.”
Since it opened, the Community Pop-Up Shop has been gaining more visitors each week. “It’s dawned on us we will have to run this for some time,” said Rev Hanson. “I’m happy to continue indefinitely.”
Cllr Ruth Buckmaster, a town and district councillor, is one of the pop-up shop’s volunteers. At Sawbridgeworth Town Council’s February meeting she said: “The numbers have been growing each week, so obviously the word is getting round that it is there for people.
“It’s quite interesting to talk to the people, listening to what they’re saying and how a lot of them have been furloughed and then consequently have lost their jobs.
“These are quite often people who suddenly find they’re on benefits or for other reasons are really struggling, so it’s really quite good to know that we can be there to help them get over this awkward time.”
The Community Pop-Up Shop stems from another church initiative; for over three years, SECC has been staging Make Lunch, offering free, nutritious meals on Wednesdays for disadvantaged people.
Prior to its launch, SECC appealed to the wider community for donations of tinned food, toiletries, cleaning products and clothes to ensure there was plenty on offer for families. Now that the team are running things a little differently, rather than accepting any and all donations, a database has been set up.
The volunteers keep a stock-check and ascertain which items are needed. They then send a message to a list of donors each week and appeal for these goods.
To sign up to be a donor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.