Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do
Ashmore Park Community Association is a volunteer-run charity, which has been working with the community of Ashmore Park in the northeast of Wolverhampton since 1996.
We have occupied three different buildings during this time and relocated to our current home The Hub at Ashmore Park on Griffiths Drive in 2014 as part of the City Council’s Community Hubs initiative.
Whilst owned by City of Wolverhampton Council, The Hub is managed by volunteers from Ashmore Park CA, who are responsible for day-to-day operations. The facility is home to a Community Centre, Library and Fitness Centre, offering a wide range of activities to local people.
We support the local community by hosting a wide range of activities, as well as putting on events ourselves & run a community cafe. Our buildings have become home to many different groups and organisations at the heart of our community.
In June 2017 we were awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award given to voluntary groups across the UK.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Whilst being recognised with awards is an honour, I feel our greatest achievement is having kept the charity and a building running for almost 30 years without any paid staff.
These days running a charity is similar to running a business – the public has a level of expectation that needs to be met and the skills volunteers need are no different to those needed in the workplace. Expecting people to volunteer their time to do this kind of work is a big ask – we are very grateful for our fantastic volunteers!
We rose to the challenge of running a much larger facility when we moved to The Hub in 2014, we have weathered the storm during the pandemic (our building was used for Covid testing & vaccinations) and we have come out the other side, reopening in early 2022.
We now find ourselves with the usage of the building returning to pre-pandemic levels, but with far fewer volunteers to call upon. However, we are still going, so this is our greatest achievement.
What is your experience of support received from WVCA?
I work part-time with WVCA, so I’m a little biased, but I can honestly say the level of support we have received is excellent. I have attended several training sessions hosted by WVCA and have always found these hugely helpful, particularly when trying to get my head around the wonderful world of charity finance!
The opportunity to meet people working & volunteering in the sector and share hopes & fears with people who understand where you’re coming from is vital. The opportunities that WVCA creates for this to happen are really beneficial. Being able to call on the knowledge and experience of staff also means there’s always an answer to a question.
WVCA has from time to time hired our facilities for meetings and events. This gives us an opportunity to showcase what we have to offer to the wider sector – another form of support.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that the people of Wolverhampton are incredibly generous. The city has more than its fair share of challenges, but Wulfrunians have a real spirit and no matter how hard things are, if we ask for support, whether it be in the form of time for volunteering, appeals for money, donations of food or clothing etc. people rally round to support each other. That’s what I call community spirit!
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVCA help to support your organisation in the future?
Rising costs are always a concern, we are fortunate to have a good partnership with the City Council in terms of the building and we benefit from fantastic support from our ward Councillors in Wednesfield North.
The single biggest challenge for us is recruiting and retaining volunteers. It’s really hard to find and integrate new people when you barely have the time to do everything that already needs to be done.
We are planning on working with Wolverhampton Volunteers at WVCA to try and increase our pool of volunteers and we are also working with Sharon Nanan-Sen to review our charity structure and governance.
Having people in the city with the knowledge and experience to help small charities such as ourselves is essential and we’re grateful to have the expertise to hand without the need to go further afield.
Where can we find out more?
Voluntary Sector Focus is our regular look at the people and organisations that make up the thriving voluntary and community sector in Wolverhampton.
Every month we feature a Q&A from someone at a VCSE organisation so they can tell the sector more about the work they do.
If you’d like to be featured, please email email@example.com for more info.