"It's become a real community hub"

The Alsager work club was set up two years ago. It has gone on to become a real community hub, in ways its founders didn’t expect...

We’re the same as many other job clubs – we meet weekly on a drop-in basis to offer advice and support on all sorts of work related issues. We have the local papers and laptop computers available to help people look for vacancies, and can help with writing CVs and covering letters.

We serve sandwiches and tea to anyone who wants to stop by. It’s a really friendly group and there is a social as well as a practical side to it. We even had to move into a bigger room in the church hall as so many people were taking part.

We’re run by volunteers and each session often sees visitors from local organisations stopping by to have a chat as well. Our volunteers are a mix of people, some retired, some professionals and parishioners. Everyone brings different skills and life experiences. But all of them believe that groups like the work club can help to lift people’s spirits, increase self-confidence and help them achieve their goals.

Unemployment in Alsager isn’t as big a problem as it is in other places, but it does affect people. Being a rural area, things like public transport links can be a barrier, and being able to provide a way for people to get online to job hunt is important too.

When some allotment space became available nearby, one of our members had an idea. Tracy had previously run a kitchen garden for vulnerable adults and thought that taking over the plot for the work club to run would be really beneficial. She had seen how tending the garden had helped people in different ways; the physical activity, team working and the chance to learn new skills are all really good for people’s wellbeing and confidence.

A small group of volunteers are now involved, and we are in the first stages of digging and planting. The plot has been out of use for a few years, so there has been lots of work to do. In time, we will grow vegetables, herbs and fruit. Anyone who is interested is welcome to come along, even if it’s something they have never tried before.

We successfully applied for a £500 Cash 4 Neighbourhoods grant from Plus Dane, a funding pot that is open to community groups in Cheshire, and that has been a great help towards our start-up costs with the allotment as well as making sure we have some money saved to fall back on. If we need anything like tools and gardening gear, we do try and see if anyone can donate items they don’t need before buying new things.

The allotment project will grow into a fantastic, sustainable community resource. It’s a real success story for the work club and we’re very proud of our members that have made it a reality.