New Beginnings Reading CIO
The Sainsbury Singers are partnering with a local Reading homeless charity called New Beginnings Reading CIO and a couple of our members went to meet the founders Grace and Joe Gomez and look around the pub that they are repurposing.
From the outside the Queens Arms is a typical old fashioned pub that has fallen into disrepair and has been boarded up - a rather sorry but not unfamiliar sight these days. Most pubs that have closed have been turned into either restaurants or local supermarkets. But inside this one is a group of volunteers who are putting their heart and soul into redecorating and repurposing this pub for a great cause. There we met Grace and Joe, the founders of New Beginnings Reading CIO and an increadibly enthusiastic and passionate couple. Their vision is to open an alcohol-free pub serving free food and drinks to homeless and needy families in Reading and hope to open on September 30th 2017.
The journey so far...
Grace explained the journey so far - "We have been working at the Way Ministry and dreaming about providing more help for homeless people and specifically families. I had been praying for a location so we could open something like this and I suddenly heard God telling me that if I made a big noise about it, someone would hear me this year. Our request was in the newspaper three times before the owner of this pub saw it and offered to rent it to us."
At the moment the pub is being renovated, which involves a lot of hard work and collaboration from volunteers and companies. Pretty much everything is being donated for the redecorating, from building materials and supplies to furniture and appliances. It has been an incredibly difficult job. Grace explained that as bad as it looks now, it is much beter than when they started: "a few days after we started renting the property, someone broke it and completely trashed the place." The whole building need to be decorated but thanks to the dedication of volunteers and the support from people and companies in Reading, it is progressing well. "The whole upstairs of the building is full of donations! We have been given so much great furniture that we won't be able to use it all."
So what are the plans once the pub is open?
They want the building to be in use 24/7 and envision that the need will be great. They will be offering an after school cafe as a safe place for children to play and have help with their homework. There will be people to help with reading and writing, filling out forms or preparing for interviews and jobs, as well as opportunities to volunteer and build their skills for their CV. The spacious garden will be a protected area for children and families to enjoy with an assortment of games. People can also get clean clothes and school uniforms.
Upstairs will be prayer rooms and private spaces for people to ask for advice and help. They also want to offer advocacy help so vulnerable people aren't being taken advantage of and know and understand their rights. The pub will also be somewhere at night for homeless people to have a drink, something to eat, grab a sleeping bag and spend the night.
As Grace is showing us around, it is obvious how enthusiastic and passionate she is about this project and she starts singing "I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it!" with a very lovely voice - obviously she was made for the stage! Her enthusiasm is infectious and we were incredibly excited to discuss partnership ideas and how the Sainsbury Singers can help this great cause.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming events and plans.
How you can help:
You can support the charity by buying a ticket to our upcoming production of Godspell as we are donating £1 from every ticket sold to them. Buy your tickets here. There will be lots of other opportunities to support New Beginnings Reading CIO and if you are interested in helping out or donating, you can visit their website.