Number One Community Trust is now in its 30th year and the charity has just announced celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager as its new ambassador. Eileen Leahy went along to meet her and the organisation’s dedicated team, as it launches a special campaign to raise funds – and more much-needed awareness of the invaluable work it does for the Showfields and Ramslye communities and beyond…
Did you know that one of the town’s oldest charities is also one of its least known about? Doing a quick straw poll in the SO office I asked my colleagues if they’d ever heard of the Number One Community Trust – and sadly their collective answer was ‘no’.
I too have to put my hands up and say that neither had I – until I was contacted by the charity’s new PR a few weeks ago who is keen for more Tunbridge Wells residents to know about the vital work it does.
“We’re Tunbridge Wells’ best kept secret – but we don’t want to be!” smiles trustee and vice chairman Stuart Anderson when I met him at the charity’s community centre on the Showfields Estate last month. The property professional came on board six years ago because he wanted to make a difference and give back in life. He says that a lot has changed since then…
“We’ve had a few difficult years but Covid definitely underlined the fact there’s a need for community spirit now more than ever. We’re getting there, but equally we need more support given the cost-of-living crisis.”
“This is an opportunity for you to contribute to the Number One Community Trust… give whatever you can afford.”
And that’s why Number One Community Trust, which was originally set up by two local churches – has recently launched a campaign asking both residents of the borough and its businesses to dig deep into their pockets to donate, volunteer their services and give to the charity’s food larder.
“We’d love businesses to come down and see what we do here. It doesn’t matter how much time you have to spare – even if it’s just an hour. But we need people to commit regularly – that would make so much difference.
“In essence, our community centre is open for everyone. The café is at the centre of it all but we also have the Little Learning Tree pre-school, a library and a community hall which is used for lots of things – from fitness classes to birthday parties.”
Stuart then introduces me to his colleague Steph who has worked for Number One Community Trust for the past 18 months. “I talk to businesses about how they can help us by putting on different classes and I also chat to residents to see what kinds of groups they might like to get involved with.
“We’ve been working with organisations like the YMCA and a local boxing club who both hire the hall. It’s about people coming along and then bringing their friends. One activity or class helps breed more.”
Stuart explains that for the past three decades the trust has been a lifeline for many low-income families, elderly residents, children and refugees who are based on the Showfields but also the nearby Ramslye estate – as well as other areas in Tunbridge Wells where people might need support.
“It’s important to know that what we do here is not just for local residents,” adds Stuart. “Our café and pre-school are the core pillars of what we do because it starts from educating the children – and a lot of their very young parents – right up to the older people in our community. But we’re not an institution, we’re a friendly face for people to talk to.”
He then mentions the food larder service they provide which supplies the café with food and helps create essential food packages. Steph adds that as everyone is ‘feeling the pinch’ at the moment they would like donations from businesses and residents who might be able to spare a bit more.
“Nicky, who runs our café is amazing. She makes up the donation bags with such love and puts them together so well. Many people who use the service are lacking in life skills so the ingredients she puts in help them to make simple food from scratch. We’re not qualified to give expert advice but we can help signpost.”
Stuart also reveals that the community hub welcomes those with learning disabilities so they too can gain much-needed life skills. “Those who come along with their carers are then supported by our café staff doing jobs they might not otherwise get the opportunity to experience.
“The thing with Number One is it’s local people helping other local people. We do quite a bit with the housing specialists Town & Country who are currently coming in to give talks about how to save money in different ways. We also believe the link up with Rosemary will be invaluable for us.”
“I’m so sorry to say that I had never heard of it either,” states celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager as she sits down to join our chat to explain how she got involved.
“It was a no brainer for me. Food is my background and at the moment for many it’s ‘heat or eat’ and we have to find ways around this. If you look at the whole picture of this trust it delivers on community, food and accessibility to things people might not have the opportunity to have.
“It reaches out and gives people confidence and opportunity – and that’s what life is about. For those of us who are fortunate I think it’s our duty to help others. What shocked me is that I didn’t even know this charity was here.”
“Your contribution goes towards a variety of community projects, subsidised food, free lunch for children and activities for all age groups. From pre-schoolers to the elderly.”
Another well-known local face who has declared her support for the charity is Jaime Cooke from fitness studios SPN. The personal trainer, entrepreneur and talented DJ is putting out food collection areas in her Camden Road and Sevenoaks SPN branches in order to help raise vital food donations for the Number One Community Trust.
“We need to help our own local community. I didn’t know this charity existed either which is why I believe we should go into schools and tell them about it as well as issues like people having to use local foodbanks. Schools are always fundraising but I don’t think there’s specific awareness about our own local community.”
Rosemary adds that she and café manager Nicky – who she describes as a ‘local hero’ – are going to show people how to cook healthily but economically.
“It’s about getting people together and educating – I love the fact there’s a library here too,” says the newly published crime fiction author.
“But we need more help. We need people to donate – from food donations to furniture. The facilities here are 30 years old so we need to raise money, we need volunteers, we need to fundraise – we need the whole lot! We have lots of people in this community who have a transferable skillset who can help us make this a hub for people to come to.
“Tunbridge Wells is very affluent so to have something like this on our doorstep means we have to take note and help. The fact none of us really knew it existed is a problem. In our town there is hunger, there are people who are suffering because of the current economic crisis and not able to heat their homes.”
In June, Rosemary will once again take part in the Tunbridge Wells Soapbox Superstars Race which is organised by Nicole Piesse Turner who is also a supporter of the Number One Community Trust. “Rosemary’s sponsored cart will help raise funds for this amazing charity,” she tells me at our photoshoot.
Jaime adds: “It’s our duty to make sure we spread the word. We have a large number of clients coming through our studios so it just makes sense to support.”
To meet the increasing needs of the community they serve, the Number One Community Trust is reaching out to individuals and businesses to give as little as £1, to regularly donate to the food larder or pledge a legacy to help the trust’s new fundraising appeal which hopes to reach £200k by next year.
Other supporters so far include The Claremont Pub, Strong Female Lead and Matthew Walker Photography. So how about starting next year by also getting on board and knowing all about the Number One Community Trust instead of not?
Number one Community Trust on: 01892 514544
What is Number One Community Trust?
Originally founded in 1995, Number One Community Trust became a registered charity in 2002. It is managed by a board of trustees, many of whom live and work in the local area. Located in the heart of the Showfields community it does the following work courtesy of a mix of volunteers and paid employees:
Number One Community Trust is a community centre serving the residents of Showfields and Ramslye, two estates with significant urban deprivation affecting children and adults of all ages.
The trust aims to enhance the quality of life of residents through events, activities and community projects. It is a hub in the heart of the community that works to improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of local residents.
Some of the things it offers the community includes:
- The ‘young at heart group’ for the elderly, providing fun, friendship and social interaction
- Holiday lunch club offering lunches for children in the school holidays for just £1
- Food Larder for families struggling with food poverty
- Highl-subsidised café providing wholesome food at affordable prices
- Education and training opportunities to improve the social and economic outlook of the community
- Subsidised hall for sports, clubs and community events.
The Number One Community Trust already makes a difference to the everyday lives of the community. Local individuals and businesses can help the trust continue its vital work by donating, even just £1, at: numberonecommunity.org