Last week, the VCSA held its Annual Assembly at the Shrewsbury Town Football Club. With over 80 people in attendance and dozens of local voluntary and community groups attending, it was an excellent opportunity for local VCSE leaders, staff and volunteers to network, encourage and support one another.
Several organisations held stalls, including Healthwatch, Shropshire MHS, Community Resource, Landau, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Integrated Care System, The National Lottery Community Fund, Save Our Shropshire, MPFT, Read Easy, Marches Energy Agency, the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals, Craven Arms Community Gardens, Taking Part, and InTune Radio.
Many more brought themselves and their enthusiasm for the work they do serving Shropshire and its residents.
The morning opened with remarks from High Sheriff of Shropshire, Mandy Thorne, who thanked VCSE organisations for all they do for Shropshire, and invited organisations to reach out to her for visits, support and engagement, as she is keen to support the sector in any way she can. She also announced that she will be hosting a “thank you” event for volunteers in Shropshire on the 24th of September, and more information about how to nominate volunteers for this event will be coming out soon. She also announced that she will soon be launching new small grants through the High Sheriff’s office that will be delivered in partnership with the Shropshire Community Foundation.
This followed on well for Sonia Roberts, one of the Shropshire Community Foundation’s trustees, to tell attendees about the work the Foundation has been doing to establish funding opportunities and fruitful connections with the business community and with donors to bring more money into the sector to help it thrive. Sonia also announced that the new website for the Foundation has been launched, and VCSE organisations can visit it here.
Julie Mellor and Nicola Daniels, current VCSA co-chairs, thanked last year’s chair, Heather Osborne for her service. They then shared the priorities that were workshopped with members at the 2022 Annual Assembly, and noted some of the highlights of the progress that the VCSA has made on these in the past year. This work is further detailed in the lately released VCSA Annual Report. Sarah Hampson, Insight and VCS Engagement Support Officer at Shropshire Council, who supports the VCSA, then gave an overview of the results from the two pieces of research that the VCSA has conducted in 2022/23, the Cost of Living Impacts report and the State of the Sector Survey report.
The keynote speaker was Charlotte Hollins from Fordhall Community Land Initiative, who spoke about her family’s incredible journey to become England’s first community owned farm, and the importance of community power. Charlotte is supporting a national campaign for community power called We’re Right Here, which you can read more about on their website.
Colin Foot from Shropshire MHS also introduced a new tool for building organisational resilience called TRiM, which you can read more about here. Colin also brought along the Shropshire MHS van, which attendees could view inside. The van is taken along to local markets and events to provide on the ground mental health support and advice in the community. If you would like the van to attend one of your organisation’s events, you can contact Shropshire MHS on manager@Shropshiremhs.com.
Finally, Julie and Nicola thanked all of the attendees and those organisations not present as well for the incredible hard work and impacts they have every day on Shropshire and its residents.