St Thomas Charity Shop celebrates one year anniversary!

L-R: Melissa Cantrill, Volunteer at Cowick Street shop, Becky Foster-Rooke, Enabler at WESC, Nina, WESC student, Maria Dowswell, Shop Assistant, Helen , Shop Manager and Maureen Biss, Deputy CEO at WESC Foundation
L-R: Melissa Cantrill – Volunteer at Cowick Street shop, Becky Foster-Rooke – Enabler at WESC, Nina – WESC student, Maria Dowswell – Shop Assistant, Helen Kielstra – Shop Manager and Maureen Biss – Deputy CEO at WESC Foundation

WESC Foundation’s newest Social Enterprise Charity Shop in St Thomas, is celebrating its first anniversary this month and to mark the occasion they are celebrating in style at their Cowick Street shop with volunteers, customers and WESC students and staff!

With first year sales exceeding costs the shop is pleased to announce they are making positive financial contributions that are being reinvested into educating and supporting visually impaired young people at WESC Foundation – The Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment.

The St Thomas Social Enterprise opened in December last year and is much more than just a Charity Shop. It also provides an excellent location to introduce visually impaired learners to a range of social skills and learning opportunities to support their vocational qualification; from meeting and greeting customers to practical skills such as till operation and the daily running of a busy shop. A key benefit of WESC’s Social Enterprise is to give visually impaired learners the opportunity to interact with fellow workers and the public. This support over time will lower barriers and give learners a new found confidence.

Maureen Biss, Deputy CEO at WESC Foundation, said: “We have had a hugely positive first year with a great response from customers and students who work in the shop. The shop has been instrumental to help train the visually impaired learners at WESC. Thank you to everyone who has supported the shop, in particular Helen, the shop manager, who has been inspirational in leading this successful venture.”  

WESC student Nina does her work experience at the St Thomas shop - here she is celebrating at the anniversary event
WESC student Nina does her work experience at the St Thomas shop – here she is celebrating at the anniversary event

The St Thomas Social Enterprise Charity Shop, based at 144 Cowick Street, is the fifth Social Enterprise that WESC Foundation has set up (current locations include: Sidwell Street – Exeter, Sidmouth, Heavitree and Honiton shops).

Helen Kielstra, St Thomas Social Enterprise Shop Manager/Trainer said: “I am so proud to be the manager at the St Thomas shop. The community spirit in St Thomas is amazing and it’s what keeps the shop alive. We are all very welcoming and friendly, as are all our valued customers. Thank you to everyone who supports us.”

Andy Roberts, Head of Enterprise Development at WESC Foundation said: “We’d like to thank the St Thomas community for all their support throughout our first year. They have been fantastic and have helped us succeed through their donations, time in volunteering and support through purchasing quality items….we really couldn’t have done it without them so thank you. We are always on the look-out for more donations so please get in contact if you would like to get involved or donate any items”. 

To find out how you can get involved in volunteering or if you have any donations please contact Andy Roberts on 01392 454330 or email aroberts@wescfoundation.ac.uk.

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