Tamworth Co-op’s bumper handout to help town’s most needy people

A Christian charity which helps transform lives is celebrating the New Year with its biggest ever grant – thanks to Tamworth Co-op’s Cash in the Bag scheme.

Tamworth Co-op chairman Audrey Higginson presents cheque for £5,000 from Cash in the Bag scheme to Starfish treasurer Peter Jenkinson.

Tamworth Co-op chairman Audrey Higginson presents a cheque for £5,000 from the Cash in the Bag scheme to Starfish treasurer Peter Jenkinson.

The Starfish Project has been awarded £5,000 from the initiative, part of which will go towards the setting up of a winter night shelter for rough sleepers in the coldest months of the year.

The money has been generated by a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags introduced by the Government in October 2015. The sale of carrier bags in Tamworth Co-op stores has raised £20,000, with the entire amount ring-fenced for good doorstep causes. The names of three more charities, which are set to benefit, will be announced soon.

Starfish treasurer Peter Jenkinson said the award was by far the largest the volunteer-run organisation had received in its 10-year history.

“It has come as a complete surprise and we really can’t thank Tamworth Co-op enough,” said Mr Jenkinson.

“This donation is greatly appreciated and will be well used. It means we won’t have to worry about going overdrawn in the next 12 months. Some of the funding will go on the winter shelter and the rest will pay for our overheads.”

Starfish is joining forces with The Churches of Tamworth to offer the homeless a bed for the night at various church and charity buildings during cold weather.

The service is due to be piloted for a month initially, starting in February, before hopefully being fully implemented in November. Each church involved aims to provide shelter for one night each week from 8pm to 8am for up to 10 people. Every guest will be given an evening meal and cooked breakfast to ensure they are properly fed and kept warm.

Starfish provides sleeping bags, one-man tents, hygiene packs, and washing and food vouchers to rough sleepers.

Last November the charity also extended its network of drop-in centres which provide a listening ear for the most vulnerable adults in the community.

Around 100 visitors a week attend one of the five centres at St Editha’s Crypt, St Martin’s, Stonydelph, St Andrew’s, Leyfields, Sacred Heart, Glascote Heath and Holy Trinity, Wilnecote – the latest venue – for support and food. They include the homeless and ex-offenders, as well as people with alcohol/drug-related problems and those suffering from financial hardship, loneliness, mental health/learning difficulties and relationship troubles.

Mr Jenkinson added: “We have a project manager and about 40 active volunteers from some 25 different churches in the Tamworth area who offer their time to listen to and help people in a non-judgmental way. We come alongside to encourage both practically and spiritually.

“There’s no doubt Starfish transforms lives. Many people have been helped and prayers answered. Our mission is to share the love of Christ with those wounded by life’s challenges.”

Audrey Higginson, chairman of the Tamworth Co-op board, said: “Starfish stood out as one of the high-achieving organisations we felt needed a hand. We’re delighted to be able to offer this financial support.”

*Volunteers are needed for the night shelter in February. For more details call John on 07947 957155. More information about Starfish and the drop-in centres can be found at www.starfishprojecttamworth.com