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The Vicar of Rotherham Minster and his wife attended one of our Thursday night Zoom meetings earlier in 2021 and spoke to us about their work, including the “Social Supermarket”(SSM). Our newest member Martin Davis was particularly interested in the project and below, in his own words, is how he followed it up.

"It was something I was interested to hear about because I wanted to know how it fitted in with the Foodbanks that Rotherham Sitwell Rotary had done so much for during lockdown.

I have to admit to being sceptical at first but I was keen to understand more and subsequent telephone calls with the vicar and his wife and the meetings that followed clarified the situation for me. I eventually realised that it was a marvellous idea with promising potential, and that they just might have come up with something that could be replicated nationally and help more than just the people of Rotherham.

My partner Julia works alongside Social Care in Family Support and through her I was also able to see the other side of the coin and what the SSM meant to the people who needed and used it.

The people who depend on Foodbanks see the SSM as a food bank with dignity and have more control of the process, which in turn promotes their opportunity to establish themselves and become more independent.

The vicar wanted to take the SSM out of the church into separate premises close by and was looking for ways and funding to acquire premises in the town centre. I was able to share my knowledge of how the commercial property world works and that he could very likely have a substantial building on his doorstep for ZERO cost!

My help culminated in a walkabout in the town centre, and I pointed out a list of suitable buildings that he could possibly acquire for free and how to go about it.

He followed my guidance and I have been informed that he has struck a deal with the Co-op to takeover their Bank Building on Bridgegate.

The Co-op purpose-built the 3 story bank only a few years ago but vacated it in line with changing times within the banking industry as more and more businesses increasingly rely on the internet.

The Co-op’s current position is that they owned a building that was not generating income and also costing various standing charges from service providers and 100% empty rates and water rate charges which would probably be circa £50-£70k per annum. The sale of or a tenant for the premises was unlikely, so it remained a red mark on their balance sheet. However, churches do not pay rates or standing charges and services can often be at preferential rates.

Thus, by the Co-op giving a free short-term lease with automatic renewal options, the Minster gets a free building and the Co-op saves tens of thousands of pounds and gets some great PR because they are seen to be helping the church and the community.

Not only does the Minster get a free SSM, they also get two more floors with kitchen and toilet facilities to hold their coffee mornings and various help groups for families and children’s activities.

A fantastic building, beyond the vicar's wildest dreams, for free and so much more than just an SSM and actually on the doorstep and within sight of the Minster.

A happy ending for everyone concerned and we could show people all over the UK how to do these things"

Martin Davis

Ed. Well done Martin. A great effort on your part and a wonderful outcome for the people of Rotherham.