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Clent Connect: the face of the church in the community

Published: 10th November 2023

Revd Kim Topham standing in front of shelves of groceries inside Clent ConnectClent Connect is a community hub, shop and café, owned and run by the local community with non-stipendiary minister, Kim Topham as its Operations Director. It’s non-profit making, and with volunteer help, this makes the shop viable and the prices reasonable. The board measures its value in terms of who comes, whether they enjoyed it, and whether they come back. It adjoins the Parish Hall, at the heart of Clent village and originated as a positive ‘side effect’ of the pandemic.

When the first lockdown was looming, Kim and her two friends Rosie and Bonnie realised that the village would need help. Like many communities during this time, a band of volunteers was formed to visit people at their gates, pick up prescriptions, walk dogs, and do food shopping. As their numbers grew, they developed a ‘phone buddy’ system and a regular newsletter to help people feel connected.

Kim said: “When the lockdowns ceased, we thought that we shouldn’t lose what we had started. We wanted a legacy, a central hub in the village to prevent isolation and loneliness and offer signposting to practical help.”The outside of Clent connect

The problem was finding a suitable location as the Parish Hall at the centre of the village wasn’t a feasible space. Thankfully, help and funding came via the Parish Council, enabling an extension to be built at the side of the hall.

“We then provided the community with a ‘wedding list’ of needed items,” continued Kim. “Everything in Clent Connect is donated by the community. People could buy shelves, a freezer, or teaspoons, and donate funds for a whole or part of an item, for example half the money needed for a fridge. This worked beautifully and consequently the whole village is invested in, and cares about, this venture.”

In March this of this year Clent Connect had their grand opening and received a special award from the High Sheriff of Worcestershire, in recognition of valuable service to the community.

“We wouldn’t be able to have done it without the generous help and support from the Plunkett foundation, who support community businesses (https://plunkett.co.uk/) as well as the Parish Council. Councillor Karen May has been unstinting in her support helping access funding as well as being a regular visitor,” said Kim.Two volunteers standing behind the counter at Clent Connect

The project is evolving continually according to the needs of the community.

The volunteers really enjoy what they do. All who wish to help are welcomed and given jobs to do that they’re comfortable with. Training is provided, and there’s a buddy system, so that no-one need work alone.

Kim sees Clent Connect as a huge part of her ministry. It’s where she meets people, and where people can find her if they need to talk: “Even though I do a lot of church work, I feel my mission is more in the community. My church is out here! I don’t have to go to people, they come to me. Clent Connect is the face of the church in the community.”

Some of the people Kim has made links with at the hub have begun coming along to services, although her aim is simply to connect and form relationships.

The hub is popular with villagers, walkers, cyclists, and those from neighbouring areas. Local high schoolers pop in for a drink and a snack. The newsletter begun during Covid is still delivered to every home in the village, aiding that sense of community.

Why not visit? For opening times visit the Clent Connect website. The pop-up extended cafe is on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Page last updated: Friday 10th November 2023 9:09 AM

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