Emmaus Burnley has launched the first charity department store in the country in Rochdale after finding a home with the Co-op.

Emmaus – which was established more than 25 years ago in the UK – has been offered the 50,000 sq. ft. space rent free by the Co-op in a move designed to give a new lease of life to an unused building, while enabling the charity to further its work to overcome homelessness and social exclusion.

The new department store, which is located in the Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre, was officially opened on Monday 7 January by actor and Emmaus ambassador, John Henshaw.

John Henshaw, actor and Emmaus ambassador, said: “In the present climate Emmaus is doing a fantastic job and I was delighted to open their latest outlet in Rochdale. May they continue raising funds, rehabilitating and offering a safe haven to those of us who have just gotten a little lost in life.”

The department store, which was originally opened in the 1950’s by Rochdale icon Gracie Fields, will support the charity’s work to deliver wider social, environmental and economic benefits in the community. Spread across three levels, it offers a wide range of new and pre-owned items including furniture, homeware, electrical appliances, clothing and vintage goods.

Stephen Buchanan, Director of the Emmaus Burnley, said: “This is very exciting for all involved as this is our largest development to-date and could not have been achieved without working together with The Co-op, 50 Square and Reuse Network. The Emmaus Department Store will provide a huge boost for our charity, offering meaningful work and training opportunities whilst generating an income which allows us to offer support to formerly homeless people.

“We hope that we can get the support of the wider community as we can collect donated furniture for free, offer opportunities for volunteering, work experience and offer a wide choice of goods at a reasonable price.”

The Emmaus Department Store is expected to equip around 60 vulnerable people with the skills, training and qualifications needed to integrate back into society.

Stuart Hookins, Co-op’s Director of Portfolio and Development, said: “Connecting communities and bringing people together is at the heart of the Co-op, we are committed to supporting the creation of stronger communities. This move not only breathes new life into an unused space but supports the charity’s work to transform the lives of vulnerable people in our communities.”

Homelessness charity Emmaus supports formerly homeless people by providing them with a home and work in a community setting. To get involved or donate an item, please call 0330 058 4264 or visit the new department store at Rochdale Exchange Centre, 50A Market Way, Rochdale OL16 1ED.

To find out more and support Emmaus head to www.emmaus.org.uk/rochdale