Dedicated Emmaus charity volunteer, Gladys Morgan, opened the refurbished Emmaus Home Shop today and got a few extra surprises in the bargain.

Dedicated Emmaus charity volunteer, Gladys Morgan, opened the refurbished Emmaus Home Shop today and got a few extra surprises in the bargain. After 10 years of service, delighted Gladys was presented with a bespoke bench, made by the companions at Emmaus Colchester.  Ellie Vlavianou, from not-for-profit social housing organisation, L&Q, then stunned Gladys further with a beautiful bouquet and a donation to Emmaus Colchester of £4,000.

Gladys is the charity’s longest serving volunteer and works two days a week sorting out donated clothing. She said: “I’ve never done anything like opening a shop before and my grandchildren are over the moon! My own son had a drink problem when he was a teenager, so from personal experience I’m glad that there is an organisation like Emmaus that can help our community.

“It’s been a wonderful honour today and I feel very emotional, much of the time I am sorting clothing and am out of sight, so it’s been wonderful to have this surprise and receive the generous donation too.”

The £4,000 donation from L&Q will be used to fund the companions’ uniform, which is the full amount that it costs per year. Regarding the donation, Ed Tibbetts, Head of Design and Planning at L&Q said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Emmaus in their work in Colchester. As a not-for-profit housing association, we understand the importance of providing safe and comfortable homes for everyone. We’re looking forward to seeing the refurbished shop thrive over the coming months, and will carry on supporting Emmaus as we continue our work in Colchester and North Essex.”

The opening event was celebrated with staff, companions, trustees and volunteers from Emmaus Colchester, along with pupils from Lexden Springs School, with which Emmaus has an ongoing partnership.

The shop’s transformation began when Emmaus Colchester gained planning permission to convert the space above the shop into six bedrooms for companions. With adjustments needed to the shop frontage to accommodate a new entrance to the bedrooms, it gave the charity a chance to refurbish the shop. Construction work to the first floor is scheduled to begin in the new year.

Denise King, chief executive officer at Emmaus Colchester, said: “‘All our companions, trustees and volunteers have been involved in the process and our companions have completed the work. It’s helped improve their skills and given them confidence to move on, which is what we do at Emmaus.

“After the success of our New Life Shop and Café on Crouch Street, we’ve taken the opportunity to create a stronger identity for our Home Shop.”

The new look shop takes on an industrial theme, with painted grey floors, scaffold-board shelving units and Crittall-style steel windows. It will also be based on a pop-up concept with four areas that will change over time.

Denise explains: “We’re starting with a clothing area with changing rooms, a vinyl area with space to play records, and two further sections selling electrical items and small furniture.

“We’re particularly proud on the new frontage design, and hope that we’ll have lots of new customers coming along to No. 99 to support our work with those who have previously experienced homelessness.”

Darren Scott, business manager, has overseen the project: “To keep the costs down all materials where possible have been reused, which is in keeping with the Emmaus ethos. We’ve also been able to apply the skills of our companions to help us complete the refurbishment. In part, helping to improve their confidence and giving them a strong sense of achievement.”

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