The last year and a half have put an extreme amount of strain on the community, but it has also highlighted just how important it is to support each other and be an active member of your community. The Barham Village Store (BVS) is more than an active member, it’s a community village grocery shop and Post Office run primarily by volunteers.
What makes it rather special is that surplus profits are donated to the Nailbourne Community Foundation (NCF), massively benefitting the surrounding area.
We caught up with Carolyn Hunt, volunteer and BVS Committee Member, to find out a little bit more about the store, its origins, and how it’s worked with and supported the community so far.
The legacy of the store dates back to 2008, when the original shop and Post Office in Barham closed, and soon after, the Nailbourne Community Foundation was formed.
They purchased a shipping container as a temporary shop. A five-year lease was granted to a commercial tenant who owned and ran the business until its expiry in 2015. In the meantime, an extension to our village hall was built to house the shop and it was decided after much research that it should be run as a community shop under a lease granted by the village hall trustees for a term of 20 years.
The shop is managed by members of staff Debbie Woodward supported by Nina Julian and the Post Office by Debbie Tapley, alongside part time staff, Kim Wyatt and Shona Young, as well as 60-70 volunteers who play a vital role in the day to day running of the shop and Post Office.
How has the Barham Village Store worked and supported the local community?
Carolyn explained: “Via the Nailbourne Community Foundation, we have provided seed funding for a new Scout group and youth football team, the latter now with two youth teams and both ladies’ and men’s teams.
“Photographic equipment has been provided to the Fifth Trust which runs a centre for adults with learning difficulties and lighting to the Amateur Dramatics Society. We have installed two defibrillators in the village and covered the core costs of the Babies and Toddlers group.
“We have also funded installation of planters for the village to assist the village Horticultural Society in ambitions for Barham in Bloom. Our most recent activity was supporting the Alzheimer’s Society, raising funds through the making and selling of cupcakes, all done by the shop volunteer network, and we raised £240.”
Other than supporting residents and organisations locally, the shop also provides an opportunity for providers of local produce, supporting 57 suppliers, with 48 of them in Kent and 26 within a 10-mile radius of the shop; add the fact it provides employment and key services to locals, you can see just how valuable the shop is to the local area.
Carolyn added: “The thing that makes Barham Village Store work is its people – the volunteers and staff who engage together, creating a fun environment to work in and serve our customers. A place where nothing is too much trouble and where people will always step forward to get things done. We all ‘own’ the shop and want it to succeed and it’s that sense of ownership and commitment that makes the difference.”
It’s not just us at CommunityAd who recognise the crucial work the Barham Village Store has been carrying out, they have also received a Highly Commended Award by the judges in the Village/Post Office category of the 2021 Countryside Alliance Awards, as well as reaching the final three in the East Region for the Rural Business Awards in the Best Rural Social Enterprise, Charity or Community Project category.