Friday, 07 August 2020

Award for woman behind village’s community shop

Award for woman behind village’s community shop

A WOMAN who helped set up the community shop in Ewelme has been presented with an award by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire.

Sarah Maine, who has chaired Ewelme Village Store’s management committee since it opened in 2009, said she was delighted to be honoured by Lady Jay of Ewelme.

The annual High Sheriff’s awards recognise people in Oxfordshire who have made an outstanding contribution to their communities.

A ceremony was due to be held in Oxford on Tuesday but was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Maine, who lives in Ewelme, said: “I feel very touched and honoured as it’s nice to be recognised.

“We’re a community-run shop so there are a lot of people who have made that happen. I do work quite hard and I’m quite proud of what we have achieved but it’s not just me.

“In terms of our business plan, which is to provide a focal point for the community, to be self-financing and to engage with all our members in the community, we have achieved that 110 per cent.”

The shop is owned, staffed and stocked by villagers.

It sells meat, fruit and vegetables as well as fish, milk, bread, wine and beer, newspapers and other essentials, including stamps.

There is also a small café selling tea, coffee and home-made cakes, although that is currently closed due to the pandemic.

Mrs Maine said: “It is a very valuable thing in the village. We feel we need to adapt a bit to meet a changing market but when things like this coronavirus happen everyone is in there spending their money.”

Her award citation reads: “Under her leadership, the store has won numerous awards, both civic and from charities.

“It provides postage and dry cleaning services, an oil syndicate, daily newspapers and magazines and a wide variety of fresh, chilled ambient goods, gifts and cards, a small café and it sources locally wherever possible.

“There’s always a paid manager when the store is open but also numerous male and female volunteers from the village and beyond. Surplus cash is ploughed back into village activities.”

The shop employs young people at weekends to enable them to gain experience. Inevitably, there are occasional staffing emergencies and Mrs Maine is found working behind the counter.

The citation continues: “Sarah and the committee are all volunteers who take considerable care to ensure the store meets villagers’ requirements, including the people in the almshouses who do not always have their own transport.

“Local organisations are able to sell tickets to their events through the shop and the many cyclists passing through the village not only buy refreshments but inner tubes for their tyres when necessary.

“This award is but a small recognition for the amazing service Sarah has provided to the community.”

The store celebrated its 10th anniversary with a street party last May. About 50 people attended the event in Parsons Lane.

In November 2007 a village survey established that most residents were keen to support the re-opening of a village shop, pledging both financial and/or volunteering help.

Mrs Maine, who still works part-time providing legal advice for admissions appeals to schools, said she was roped into the project after realising those driving it were going to pay £300 to have the survey figures put on a spreadsheet.

She enlisted the help of her daughter Chloe, now 27, to present the results instead.

With the help of Lord and Lady Jay, who live in the village, the old post office was renovated and leased back to the village for use as a community shop for a nominal rent per annum.

In order for the store to open, more than 350 villagers bought a £10 share, made a donation or held a fundraising event, bringing in more than £21,000.

The shop also received grants from South Oxfordshire District Council and the Esme Fairbairn Foundation.

The cost of setting up the shop was more than £60,000. It has a 25-year lease on the premises and today has more than 300 shareholders, six daily managers, 25 volunteers and an annual turnover of about £150,000.

The store has won many awards over the years, including best community store in the South-East in 2017.

Shareholders have a say in what it stocks and the direction it should take.

• Awards have also been made to David Redhouse, the governor of HMP Huntercombe in Nuffield, along with prison staff Aubrey Wickham, Eulanda Nelson, Jerome Pierre and Andy Small.

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