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Vineyard Care Centre

RCN 1066846, St. Albans

The Vineyard Care Centre in St Albans is run by the Vineyard Church St Albans. One of the church's hopes and prayers is to see people breaking out of the poverty cycle, their lives being transformed from injustice and its effects. In response to that hope, we established the Vineyard Care Centre to equip people with the tools and support they need to move towards living a more independent life - empowering them to fulfil their God-given potential. We seek to fill the gaps in service provision and support, rather than duplicate what already exists. Working with local government agencies and research bodies, we feedback from our large database of unique statistics and experience to help better inform them in their policy-making decisions. As well as partnering with the Trussell Trust, we are sponsored through a generous base of local charities, churches, schools, businesses and community groups, so that we can bring lasting change to people’s lives. The Care Centre works closely with multiple local government bodies and has been recognised with awards from Offices such as the High Sheriff. The Care Centre is powered by over a hundred volunteers; brilliant everyday people that freely give their time and expertise to serve a greater vision.

Vineyard Care Centre

ORIGINS 

The Vineyard Care Centre began 13 years ago when members of the Vineyard Church in St Albans began gathering food to give it away to whoever needed it in the local community. Our FEED ministry was the only food bank in the district at that time and quickly grew to feed around 80 individuals and families every week. 

DEVELOPMENT

It soon became obvious that food insecurity was just one issue to address in the fight against poverty. We, therefore, began other parallel ministries to help further support the individuals and families visiting us at FEED. We set up KIT, offering good quality clothes and baby equipment for free, as well as accessing school uniforms for all school ages. We started running REFUEL sessions during school holidays, offering free healthy cooked lunches to those families whose children are in receipt of Pupil Premium or are on a tight budget. 

We also began hosting drop-in clinics from external organisations around issues like debt management (CAP), mental health (MIND), family law advice (Duncan Lewis), housing advice (St Albans & District Council), health visitors and family support (Sopwell Family Centre), etc... Many guests would not necessarily have the confidence or knowledge to access support and resources from organisations like these. Yet once guests build trust and rapport with the Care Centre volunteer team, they are much more willing to access these services through the Vineyard Care Centre site, having had become a safe place for them. 

We ran a free café as part of FEED. This gave guests a chance to have a chat with one of our friendly team over a cup of tea and some breakfast. We were always eager to build a sense of community where we develop connection and trust with our guests, rather than functioning as an anonymous handout.

THE CHALLENGE

The number of food banks across the UK has significantly grown over the last ‘austerity’ decade, and there are now multiple outlets in the Hertfordshire district providing the same service. However, what was not readily available was the ‘next step’ in supporting food bank users to become food secure and move towards financial independence. 

THE SOLUTION 

The Vineyard Care Centre therefore developed and launched BRIDGE in 2021. BRIDGE fills a unique gap in service provision and provides a valuable and much needed 'next step' for regular food bank users. This 6 month membership scheme focuses on three main streams:

1. ONE-TO-ONE MENTORSHIP: Each member will have access to their own mentor who will provide them with lots of support and guidance to fulfil their specific aims for the duration of their membership. 

2. FOOD SUPPLY: Members are able to choose from a wide selection of fresh and packaged food, along with essential items, each week from our social supermarket ‘shop’. 

3. TRAINING: BRIDGE will fund bespoke external courses and workshops for each individual, according to what they and their mentor decide best meets their goals, eg IT skills course.

We believe the BRIDGE programme will better help individuals and families journey towards independence, and therefore regain autonomy over their lives and help them to fulfil their God-given potential.