A new Support Centre run by the St Vincent de Paul Society has opened its doors in south Birmingham.

The exciting new venture was officially opened on Thursday 1 December by His Grace Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, and Elizabeth Palmer, SVP Chief Executive.

The centre is based at Manningford Hall, Druids Heath, and will support those in need in the area, initially being open for three days a week.

From Friday 2 December it opened as a ‘warm place’ for this winter, offering a warm refuge where people can enjoy a cuppa and a light lunch if they are unable to heat their own house or flat. It will also offer a foodbank, though this may be limited in scope at first.

In time the aim is to offer a senior citizens lunch; Stay & Play (mothers & toddlers); advice and support for women in, or escaping, abusive relationships; support for children with special needs and their parents; expand the existing foodbank; ‘funday & lunch’ for children and parents during school holidays; a food club - £5 a week subscription guaranteeing a sizeable bag of essential groceries each week and a debt/benefits advice clinic.

Members of the local SVP Conference (SS Dunstan & Jude) will also be on call to visit, assess and if possible help those in need.

Thursday’s official launch attracted a host of supporters including Pat Hollinshead, manager of Manningford Hall, and Mini Vinnies from St Dunstan’s, St Ambrose Barlow and St Alban’s primary schools, together with pupils from St Jude’s primary. Children presented hymns and reflections as part of the proceedings.

Dozens of local people also attended the opening, along with clergy and parishioners from SS Dunstan and Jude parish, councillor Julien Pritchard and SVP representatives.

Andy Gudge, President of the Parish SVP group and President of the SVP Central Council, revealed the Support Centre is the happy result of partnership working with Manningford Hall over the last several years.

“From early beginnings helping people access laundry facilities SVP relations with Manningford Hall grew and soon the local SVP Conference was partnering with the hall to run ‘funday & lunch’ events for children and their parents during school holidays,” said Andy.

“It became apparent there was a lot of unused potential at Manningford Hall which, if taken up by the SVP, could go a long way to meeting the needs of struggling families in and around Druids Heath.

“So we looked at the feasibility of operating the hall as an SVP Support Centre. After much discussion and consultation, agreement was reached with the tenants’ association that we, the SVP, would hire the hall - for three days a week initially - to deliver its services.

“Crucially we will try to deliver what the people in the community tell us they need rather than imposing our ideas on them. We want this to be a partnership.

“We can’t change the world, but what we can do is make things better.”

Pat Hollinshead, manager of Manningford Hall, described the SVP Support Centre as a ‘welcome boost’ for the area.

“The SVP has always supported our work at Manningford Hall and will now be able to help provide more services for people in need,” said Pat.

“It is going to mean a lot to us – bringing the services back that we lost a long time ago. There is a community spirit here, 100%. This is a welcome boost.”

Elizabeth Palmer, SVP Chief Executive, revealed the Support Centre at Manningford Hall is the nineth such SVP Support Centre that has opened nationwide.

“All the centres are different, based on the local community. You the people are what makes the centre,” said Elizabeth.

“We are not starting from scratch here. This feels like a family. The Vincentian family, and Manningford Hall family, coming together to create a new family. Everyone is welcome.”

As part of the official opening Archbishop Bernard blessed the centre, and Pat Hollinshead and a colleague were presented with flowers for their continued work at Manningford Hall.

It is hoped this new Support Centre will act as a ‘pathfinder centre’ to other SVP Conferences in the Archdiocese of Birmingham so they can learn from what works well – and what doesn’t work – and be inspired to set up their own centres.

The new Support Centre manager is Francessca O’Reilly. If you’d like to be involved with the new Support Centre please call Andy Gudge on 07855 824434 or email [email protected]

Photo Gallery

Launch of SVP Support Centre

Watch! Addresses from Archbishop Bernard Longley and Elizabeth Palmer

Introduced by Andy Gudge.