A £37,000 project to transform a St Helens church into a welcoming community facility is now complete.
Members of St Helens Baptist Church are delighted that the kitchen which is the final phase of the work, is now complete.
The facility will be used to make free meals for children when schools are closed, and to make healthy and inexpensive food to serve in the church’s cafe.
Since 2010, the 19th Century building has been refurbished structurally and cosmetically.
The creation of the kitchen was the final phase of the project to make the church a focal point for the local community.
One day a week for the past two years the church, in Hall Street, has run the Make Lunch scheme, which provides a free lunch during the summer holidays for children who are entitled to free school meals.
Free school meals make a huge difference to almost two million children in the UK, but when the schools are closed, the meals stop and many families struggleJohn McMenamy
However, with the lack of kitchen facilities, the meal has only been soup, sandwiches and cake. The new kitchen will enable the church to provide hot meals two days a week for the full thirteen weeks a year of school holidays.
The church also plans to hold budget-cookery classes and run a community café six days a week, where the profit will go back into community projects.
Funding for the work has come from various sources including The Veolia Environmental Trust who have awarded a grant of £11,860 through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Members of the church and Hardshaw Area Tenants and Residents Association conducted a survey of the area after local government data highlighted a lack of a community centre and focus, no appropriate meeting places for young and older people and a large number of single and sometimes lonely people.
In response to the survey the church opened a coffee bar two mornings a week, which has proved hugely popular and has generated funds for other community projects including a youth club, a pensioners’ Christmas party, and events for young people in the school holidays. The new kitchen will open up even more opportunities for community events and activities.
The church’s building committee chairman, John McMenamy, said: “We are delighted that the kitchen is complete and in use. Free school meals make a huge difference to almost two million children in the UK, but when the schools are closed, the meals stop and many families struggle. The kitchen will mean we can start to close the gap in provision, and also provide healthy food for the rest of the community at affordable prices.”
The executive director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, said: “We are pleased to have supported this project to improve the facilities at St Helens Baptist Church. The new kitchen will benefit the whole community and I hope it is used and enjoyed for many years to come.”