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Community hub is banking on church support

A ground-breaking community hub – The Branch – has opened in Chipping Norton, thanks to years of support from St Mary’s Church in the town.

Run by The Branch Trust, the building will be home to support, mentoring and signposting advice to residents of West Oxfordshire, and crucially provide space for voluntary and statutory organisations to have a base in the town, mitigating the negative effects of rural isolation.

The highly anticipated opening follows four years of renovation work to the former bank in Chipping Norton’s Market Place. First established in 2020, The Branch addresses the needs of local people in Chipping Norton and the surrounding villages by restoring access to services and providing support around a range of issues such as debt, domestic abuse, loneliness, and lack of opportunity.

Emma Kennedy, CEO of The Branch Trust said: “We are so pleased to be officially opening the doors to our brand-new community hub.

“The Branch initially grew out of networks established to encourage local collaboration between statutory and voluntary services to improve outcomes and find solutions for common local challenges.

“Our research and first-hand experience taught us that families and individuals in West Oxfordshire face a huge number of barriers from rural isolation and income deprivation to rising levels of violent crime and domestic abuse.”

The state-of-the-art community hub will be home to Connect Café (a regular drop-in offering craft, connection, and advice) and will host a range of programmes designed to support local residents by offering debt services, nurture sessions, domestic abuse support and young parenting groups.

During the Covid pandemic, the charity, supported by the church, delivered more than 46,000 meals to isolated and vulnerable individuals in Chipping Norton and the surrounding villages. It has also completed hundreds of mentoring and support sessions for young people in the county.

Emma added: “This is the realisation of a vision that began with St Mary’s Church many years ago, to create a central hub from which to serve the needs of the community. We’ve been working and making a difference in our local community for the last eight years but now, through The Branch, we will be able to take that to the next level and deliver even more support and bespoke services.”

Social justice adviser at the diocese Hannah Ling said: “Three years ago I went into a dingy, shell of an old bank building bought by St Mary's Church, Chipping Norton. They had a big vision and a lot of work ahead of them! Yesterday I went into a light and hope-filled space, bursting with potential to support the local community. With local services closing and withdrawing, this community space is so needed. The Branch is a place for the community, run by the local church, with Jesus as their motivation and hope for all they're doing."

Find out how your church could take small steps to make a big difference to the local community.

Page last updated: Wednesday 3rd July 2024 7:40 PM
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