Twenty years ago St James Parish Church, Denton Holme, established an OpShop in order to pay interest and capital on a loan taken out to develop its Parish Centre. The OpShop received strong support from the congregation, the parish and beyond. This produced a willing and skilled group of volunteers and strong community support (donors and customers). Over time, the links with the wider community developed further and the number of volunteers, donors and customers increased.
It became apparent that rather than just running a profitable shop through which local projects could be funded, St James Church was starting to engage with many people in the local community with financial, emotional and spiritual needs. The interaction between volunteers and customers started to build relationships through which support and encouragement were provided.
Some of our volunteers who had never been in paid employment or who needed a route back to regular work found that what they did in the OpShop was giving them a new confidence and relevant experience when it came to looking for work.
For church member volunteers the OpShop provided a rewarding opportunity to become more involved in supporting their community.
The OpShop over time has created a supportive and caring environment in which to establish friends and colleagues whilst at the same time serving the community and helping the environment.
The mission, ministry and local reputation of St James’ Parish church has been significantly enhanced by the respect that this community engagement achieved.
Since early 2009, the model has been taken to other parts of the city of Carlisle with a particular focus on larger estates with real needs where other retailers and service providers have withdrawn. By summer 2011 the OpShop network consisted of 7 shops and one central warehouse in the following locations:
- Denton Holme – 1991 (St James Church)
- Morton – June 2009 (St Luke’s Church)
- Botchergate – February 2010 (St John’s Church, London Road)
- Botcherby – November 2009 (St Aiden’s Church)
- Harraby – December 2010 (St Elisabeth’s)
- Five Road Ends – March 2011 (St Johns, Upperby and St Herberts, Currock)
- Shady Grove Road – May 2011 (Raffles Community Church, Holy Trinity and St. Barnabas)
- Caldewgate – Warehouse