Bridge Church has been based in the south of the City of Lincoln for many years and has had a desire to be an asset to its local community. In 2007, we purchased a former beauty salon and turned it into the Bridge Community Venue. We worked hard to make it a self-sustaining community building that would provide good quality second-hand items, a community café, and a free place for young children to play. Since 2008, we have also been a foodbank distribution centre and run a project called ‘Bridge Pastors’ which is a listening service. We are now open seven hours a day, six days a week and have at least 300 visitors through the door every week. There is such a diversity within this number, and you will often find an elderly person sat next to a young parent, or a group of our friends from the local day care centre visiting at the same time as someone coming in to receive an emergency food parcel. There have also been great friendships made within the 25 volunteers that regularly work at the venue, all of whom have little in common other than the fact that they work there!
As hard times have hit, we have lost our local library which was the only place people in the area could access free IT and internet as well as a choice of 4000 books to read. We decided that this was unacceptable and chose to put an expression of interest into the County Council to run Bracebridge Library. We were accepted and began work last summer to convert our church building into the Bridge Community Hub that would host the local library service. We have had financial support and local grants from LCC and have altered the community space in the church to have a library that can be wheeled in and out when needed. We have started with having the library open 8 hours a week with a team of committed volunteers. We hope that the library facility will be used greatly by the local community and that we will be able to increase the opening hours with more volunteers in the future. It will be a great facility from which we can run courses such as job clubs, CV writing, volunteer training, computer classes and other activities that will benefit local people.
I believe that every community needs to be proactive in working towards reducing isolation and encouraging people to be the answer to local issues. We live in areas that are fragmented and sometimes there is very little community spirit in urban areas across the city. The more housing that is built and the more cuts that are made to local provision only increase this situation. This is not going to change anytime soon so it’s important that we think creatively about bringing the community together. There are groups with the facilities, others with the projects and ideas, and volunteers who are just waiting to be asked, so when we pull it all together, it benefits everyone.