Thanks to the generosity of donors and commitment from Harpenden residents, building work is due to start at The Salvation Army on Leyton Green at the end of May with the new community hub expected to open early 2019.
From 20 May, Sunday services will take place at Southdown Methodist Church Hall above the Co-op from 10:15am. The Salvation Army’s weekday programme will be hosted in various locations around the town and people are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01582 469399 for further information.
Captain Kenneth Guest (53), minister and leader of Harpenden Salvation Army, said: “We’d like to thank everyone in advance for their patience during the building work and are very grateful to those who have offered us space to help us continue our weekday and Sunday programme.
“We can’t wait until we can welcome everyone into our new home and begin the next chapter in our 133-year history of serving this community.”
Kenneth’s commitment to the project is clear; he recently did a sky dive to raise money for the kitchen, which will sit at the heart of the church and community centre. In addition to delivering Christmas Day lunch, the kitchen will serve a community café and activities for families, young people and older people.
Kenneth has raised more than £3,000 already, but is appealing for further funds to help cover the costs of this kitchen, which is set to withstand the demands of a full programme of activity for the local community.
Kenneth added: “We need durable, commercial appliances but they don’t come cheap. Any donation, big or small, is really appreciated.
“For more than 45 years we have been serving lunch on Christmas Day for local people who would otherwise be on their own. In recent years we've had up to 80 guests and last year partnered with High Street Methodist Church to meet the need. Our kitchen and facilities at The Salvation Army have been pushed to the limit.
“A new improved kitchen will enable us to open a community café and develop an engaging programme for all ages – from activities for families to social clubs for young and older people, and access to specialist support and advice for people in need. In this town there are those who are on the edges, individuals who are isolated and families who are marginalised. We not only want to improve our community services at Christmas, we want to be there for people who need us every day.
“The sky dive was completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t do roller-coasters. I’m not sporty. Having said that, I can honestly say I have never felt calmer than I did on the day of the jump. I had no worries, no nerves, no fear. Looking back, I think I should have been more worried - I was freefalling at 120mph for 45 seconds! But it was incredible. There actually was no sense of falling, just floating on air.
“I’d really encourage anyone wanting to raise money for our community kitchen to consider a sky dive.”
The Salvation Army received planning permission last year to redevelop and extend its existing church and community centre. The extension will provide a bigger worship hall, a counselling room and a more welcoming entrance lobby. In addition, the existing internal layout will be re-organised to incorporate a new kitchen, two multi-purpose community halls, offices, enhanced toilet facilities and improved accessibility throughout.