A Wolverhampton community hub that has helped more than 8,000 people during the pandemic has received one of the biggest honours in England today.
Big Venture Centre, which was created by local people in 2017 in response to the Scotlands Adventure Playground closing, has been named as a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service winner.
The accolade marks the amazing efforts of its 10-strong army of volunteers, who have met the challenges of Covid-19 head-on by transforming the usual coffee shop, hall and gardens into a distribution centre where food parcels and activities were put together and delivered to those in need in the WV10 area of Wolverhampton.
Judges were so impressed they gave the organisation an additional Special Award for the diversity of support it provided during lockdown, with one-to-one telephone befriending and counselling offered, shopping for those that were isolating, topping up electricity and gas meters and providing items of bedding through the Winter Warmth programme.
“We are over the moon about winning the Queen’s Award, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK,” said Karen Trainer, volunteer centre manager at Big Venture Centre.
“Our volunteers have given endless hours of their time, so it’s lovely for them to be recognised for their work in the community that they live in. WV10 is an area of high deprivation, but we have some fantastic people who are willing to give their skills, time and knowledge to help us tackle some challenging local issues.
“We’ll definitely use this award to raise our profile and support future funding bids that will help us deliver more essential services in the Scotlands.”
Big Venture Centre successfully demonstrated the impact of its volunteering activities through an initial application and interview with the Queen’s Award Assessor – the latter involving a number of its volunteers to get a feeling of life at the coalface.
The overwhelming passion local people have for this community hub was clear for all to see and special praise was given for the way local knowledge has been crucial in launching a host of exciting new programmes.
These include the release of the WV10 Cookbook that shows how to feed your family for less than £45 per week and the Life After the Food Bank project.
“A lot of our work is about developing programmes that give people the opportunity to gain confidence, get started in new careers, support with money management and developing skills that could lead to work,” added Karen.
“It’s not about hand-outs, it’s about creating an environment that delivers an opportunity for locals to lead a better life.”
She added: “We have lots of exciting plans in place for the next twelve months, including trying to raise more funds to expand the current building and ensure our long-term sustainability.”
Created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.
Representatives of the Big Venture Centre will receive the award crystal and certificate from John Crabtree, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022, restrictions allowing.