Community centre becomes volunteer HQ – Responding to COVID-19

What do you do when your group has raised £2.5 million and built a community centre and the world goes into lockdown? The answer from Marjorie and Dine Glasgow is to transform it into a centre for community volunteering.

In 2017, the Glasgows saw the opening of the Charlbury Community Centre in Oxfordshire after six years of funding, fundraising, community engagement, and finally building. Half of the funding for the centre came from private individuals and all of the development work was done on a voluntary basis.

It has a library, café, studio and sports hall and supports a town with a population of 3,000. Staffed by six part-time staff and 25 volunteers, the centre broke even within a year and was even able to put aside some financial reserves.

In March 2020, the trust called an emergency meeting to determine how the centre could continue to support the local community as the UK went into self-isolation.

They decided the centre could serve best as a hub for volunteer activity to support the most vulnerable members of the community through this period. Within 24 hours they had started recruiting volunteers, set up supply chains with local food shops and chemists, and were distributing information about their services to local residents.

Within weeks, the centre had 178 volunteers providing support services to hundreds of local residents for 46 hours per week.

How can philanthropy be one step ahead?

For Dine and Marjorie, alumni of The Philanthropy Workshop programme, this is a real example of how philanthropy can move quickly to plug immediate needs.

“The hub was able to step into the breech because it had effective management, a physical building with full communication systems and a good reputation within the community.”

Add into the mix the responsiveness of the trust to give the go-ahead and its financial backing, and the community was able to work together to create a support network for those most in need.

Marjorie points out that effective philanthropy needs this combination of capital, time and community engagement to get projects up and running, and to make sure they continue to serve local needs.

“Philanthropy is such an important part of the fabric of our society. The centre wouldn’t exist without philanthropy. It is only because the centre is so embedded in the community, that we have been able to respond so quickly to the changing social needs in our area.”