Happy New Year 2018!
Last year we began our message by saying 2017 would be a critical and exciting year for BCSL and it certainly proved to be. Work in the first half of the year culminated in the launch in June of the new design for the shop building, significantly less costly and well received. We secured revised planning permission in August. Between numerous local fundraising events, a grant from a local trust and several very generous donations or pledges from members, a stunning £60,000 was raised, taking the total in the bank to nearly £135,000! Another £50,000 and we can build!
During the year we compiled the names of the 100+ volunteers from Bledington, Foscot and Foxholes, who have helped with shop work in some way over the past 10 years. And a new drive increased membership to just under 300. This is an great level of involvement, reflecting real community effort!
In August BCSL was awarded £30,000 from The Big Potential, a National Lottery-funded programme. These funds are not to help build the shop, but rather to strengthen and develop BCSL itself, putting it in the best shape to raise money and to manage the shop and café once open. A new business plan was drafted, a marketing/communications plan developed and the management committee scrutinised. This puts BCSL in the very best position for opening and operating the shop.
Now that realising our community shop and café is within sight, it is important to check out your needs, expectations and potential usage. To test this, on January 14 we will be distributing a village-wide survey. We want also to identify potential volunteers, not only to help in the shop, but also to find people who can provide some skills and abilities which the project still needs.
Do look out for the survey and please take part. Your views are vitally important. A community shop/café is successful only when it provides the community with the goods and services that it needs and wants.
In March we will launch a new, tax-efficient community share offer. This will be the key fundraising effort to close the gap and a great opportunity for everyone to become involved and contribute. The potential benefit of this scheme is up to 50% tax relief on contributions. In developing this we have been advised by the Plunkett Foundation and consultants made possible by the Big Potential grant. A share offer document has been drafted and sent to the Inland Revenue for approval.
We will continue to publish news and updates in Bledington News, circulate via email, and post on our Facebook page and website. Look out for these to keep in touch and be involved with all the new activity as it happens during 2018.
Robin and Michael McCulloch
01608 658 941