Maltby project provides listening ear and links to community
published on 25 May 2022
A Salvation Army project aimed at providing a listening ear and connecting members of the community with different services is taking off in Maltby, South Yorkshire.
What started as a Uniform Exchange for local families to pick up and donate school uniforms has grown into The Bridge Community Hub after Salvation Army Officer Major Lucy Mann saw there was a need for people to connect, not only with each other but with different agencies dotted across the county.
Lucy, who moved to Maltby during the pandemic, said: “When I moved here, I wanted to see how The Salvation Army could fit with all of the good work going on already in Maltby. The Uniform Exchange was being run by a woman called Sarah from her home, so I offered her the community space and support.
“It was running once a term but now we do it once a month. The idea is that we are recycling and reusing perfectly good uniforms that prevents them ending up as landfill, as well as helping families that may be struggling or starting to think about how they are going to manage budgets with the cost of living rising.
“With that, I started to serve teas and coffees and noticed the mums would stay around to chat. It was obvious to me they wanted that conversation, especially after the pandemic when that had been lacking. I realised how much they valued that social interaction, so it started to grow from there.”
Now the coffee mornings are held every Wednesday and once a month, Lucy invites a community group such as Rotherfed or to an authority such as Rotherham Council to help people with anything that might be needed, like budgeting, housing or benefit issues.
Lucy continued: “Rotherfed do a project called Money Matters so they brought some food with them and gave a presentation on how to shop smartly and what people can do to save money, it was really useful for all of us.
“Quite often people will have to travel into Rotherham or Sheffield to access services, so I wanted to provide a space where people could meet up and get that info in the community. If people have issues sometimes they don’t know how to get help or where to go, but I can bring those services here.
“The more it develops the more then name The Bridge Community Hub seems right, connecting people in both directions. It’s to bridge people to local services, to bridge them to friendship and bridge them to faith if that is what they would like. I don’t want anything from people apart from for them to know it’s safe to come here.”
With Maltby an old mining town, unemployment is an issue and sometimes the community can feel forgotten. There is also a lot of anxiety around the cost of living rising, and Lucy expects to see that bite in the coming months.
“We’re having a lot of conversations about that and people are telling me they are anxious. We will be doing what we can, working with agencies to ensure people are well supported and providing that listening ear for them to talk about their worries. For me, supporting families is the most important thing, that’s what I’m here for and that’s what God is wanting me to do,” she said.
“Our congregation here are fantastic. If somebody needs something, a food parcel or clothing, they are always ready to help. A month or two ago we had a woman with a young family arrive in the town with nothing, so we were able to find her clothing and shoes in her size thanks to our congregation.”
One volunteer who has been helped by The Salvation Army is Kelly Smith, 40, who came to use the Uniform Exchange and started volunteering serving teas and coffees and sorting uniforms. Giving her such a confidence boost, she has now got a job as a lollipop lady.
Kelly said: “Volunteering has built my confidence up a lot. It was the volunteering that made me think ‘I’m going to get a job’. I had no idea that from coming to pick up a uniform it would lead to something, but it helped motivate me and build up my confidence.
“It gets me out of the house and it’s nice to get to know new people and it makes me feel useful. Through volunteering I also got my DBS check, and I’m starting a food hygiene and safeguarding course.
“Lucy has helped me come out my shell. I used to be really quiet, I never used to be talkative and I didn’t really communicate with anyone outside my partner and close friends.
“I went for a job as a lollipop lady, in fact I actually phoned them myself to ask if they needed one. I wouldn’t have done that months ago, I would have just waited and waited for something to happen. I started the job a couple of weeks ago. It felt brilliant. Putting on that uniform, I feel like I’ve got a purpose, a purpose to serve and I’m an important person, I hadn’t felt that before.”
Find more information on Maltby here.