Peak District village shop receives King's Award for Voluntary Service
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Winster Village Shop, a convenience store and Post Office serving residents and visitors around Winster, Elton, Birchover, and Wensley Dale, has been named among 262 recipients of the King's Award for Voluntary Service for 2023, announced on Tuesday, November 14.
Alistair Wright, chairman of the Winster Village Shop Association, said: “We are delighted that the impact of the work of the shop has been recognised through this prestigious award.
“It rightly appreciates the important role of the shop at the heart of the local community and the valued hard work and commitment of our volunteers and staff in making life better for others.”
He added: “Many thanks too to all our many customers who have supported us and have sometimes become volunteers themselves.”
The community formed a cooperative to take over the shop in 2005, when its previous owner hung up his apron strings and residents were determined not to lose their last remaining retailer.
It was a big gamble, backed by more than £170,000 in unsecured personal loans, but today the business records one of the highest turnovers of any community-owned shop in the country.
That is made possible by a team of 40 volunteers, two managers and four part-time staff, selling essential household supplies, and high-quality produce ranging from meet to bread, dairy products, beer and honey – more than half of which are sourced from independent suppliers in and around the Peak District.
Open seven days a week, it provides a quick and easy alternative to bigger supermarkets and delivery networks from nearby towns, even for sudden catering emergencies on Christmas Day.
Nick Clapham, who moved to Winster last year and soon became involved as a volunteer, said: “It’s very much the heart of the village, both physically and in terms of cultural activities.
“It provides a social setting. Unlike a lot of bigger shops you get a personal service and bit of conversation every time you come in.”
He added: “For those who work here as well, it’s a job you can believe in, adding value to the community. When you get here in the morning you feel you are making a difference to other people.
“It’s good for volunteers’ physical and mental health, and has given youngsters their first work experience and professional skills. It may not be glamorous but it takes discipline and teamwork, and people gain a lot from it.
“When new volunteers join, the induction underlines the need to respect the service we provide and everyone who relies on it, but no one would do it if it wasn’t also a lot of fun.”
As well as staffing the shop itself, the volunteers run a free delivery service to residents with medical issues or otherwise limited mobility.
Given the number of local residents in older age groups, the delivery service and personal familiarity of shop staff work as informal welfare checks. If someone has not been seen for a few days, they will not be forgotten.
During the pandemic, the doors of the shop were closed but it became more important than ever with increased demand for deliveries, and that helped raise thousands of pounds for local families forced to rely on foodbanks.
Nick said: “If the shop wasn’t there we might have significant issues with isolation. For some customers it’s the only social contact they get in a week, and it allows the whole village to look out for those who may be vulnerable.”
The shop’s contribution to the community earned a nomination for the award from the Derbyshire Lieutenancy, the King’s representatives in the county, and the association was then subjected to a rigorous judging process alongside other shortlisted charities, social enterprises, and voluntary groups.
The King's Award was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II 's golden jubilee and is regarded as the equivalent of an MBE, bestowed on selected groups for life.
Following his accession, the King was keen to continue the annual tradition of recognising volunteers’ vital place in the social fabric.
The announcement, delivered on the King's birthday, has been a closely-guarded secret among a select few volunteers so came as a big surprise to most of those involved.
Shop representatives will receive the award crystal and certificate from the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire Elizabeth Fothergill later this year.
Two volunteers from the shop will then attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2024, along with other award recipients from across the UK and Channel Islands.
In the meantime, the shop association is currently working on plans to remodel the interior for a more modern, customer-friendly experience, but will have to raise the necessary funds first.
On Thursday, November 30, they are organising an ‘auction of promises’ at the Old Bowling Green pub, with all sorts of generous offers up for grabs including days out, holiday accommodation, fishing trips and help with various kinds of handiwork.
The shop is also currently recruiting for new volunteers who might be able to spare a few regular hours of goodwill for tasks such as working the till, restocking the shelves, preparing orders or dressing the windows. Training is provided for all roles.
Anyone interested can contact volunteer coordinator Rachel Miller by popping into the shop or writing to [email protected].