Filwood Hope has been a focal point in the heart of Knowle West since it opened in December 1996 – community reporter Kerrie Nicholson visits to find out the secret of its success…
Volunteers Dave Crick and Dave Harris greet me warmly and offer me a cup of tea the minute I enter Filwood Hope.
This is just one of a number of services the charity offers – many people just pop into the advice centre on Filwood Broadway for a chat.
The charity relies heavily on its 15 volunteers to man the front desk and manage appointments with the two part time staff – Adviser Laura Hathway and Centre Manager Pearl Aitken.
Pearl explains: “Availability to the local community was, in the beginning, and continues to be of importance. A place of welcome and warmth. …
“Volunteers have made it possible for Filwood Hope to function… They are indeed the backbone of (the organisation).”
To show the charity’s appreciation for their work and in celebration of its 20th birthday, the volunteer team was treated to a meal at the Ivy in Clifton.
The building first opened its doors on 2 December 1996 – following the closure of many shops and the only supermarket on Filwood Broadway.
Pearl recalls: “…The heart of the community was being destroyed and the hope and aspirations of many were deflated. There was no focal point and no place where help and advice could be sought…”
Knowle West Churches Together agreed that a place where people could meet and seek help and advice was the way forward. The organisation teamed up with Network Counselling, which had been given a grant of £60,000 to establish a counselling centre in an area of need.
The first manager of Filwood Hope, Richard Pearce, recalls how the building was transformed “from an empty shell into a cafe, interview rooms and office.”
He explains: “ Volunteers from the local churches were trained in befriending and listening skills ready for the opening. We opened mornings Monday to Friday when people were free to drop in for tea, coffee and a chat…”
Today Filwood Hope offers advice and support on everything from benefits and debt to referrals to other agencies and job searching. It sees a footfall of between six and 35 people a day.
Recent developments at the centre include a phone room and laptops for clients’ use. The café has since become a waiting room – a welcoming hub leading onto the building’s two advice rooms.
Partnerships within the local community and other services have always been important to Filwood Hope. The charity currently works with local food banks, Age UK and Bristol City Council as well as South Bristol Advice Service and Network Counselling.
Graham Blacker (84) is a trustee and a long term volunteer of 22 years – he spent two years training before the centre opened.
He says: “‘I feel it very rewarding to volunteer at Filwood Hope. I am part of a team that is trying to help our clients with their problems.”
Pearl believes firmly the centre’s ethos has helped it continue: “A distinguishing feature of Filwood Hope…was to give time to people – to tell their story, in their own way and in their time…
“We are pleased to be celebrating our 20th anniversary and trust we will be resident in Filwood Broadway for many years to come.”
Anyone who has a problem they want to talk over in confidence can drop in to Filwood Hope on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 9.30am – 1pm and 9.30 – 3pm on Tuesdays. For more information call 0117 963 4566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.