Where did it all start? 

Founding a Charity

Havering Volunteer Centre (CN:1165759) was founded by Shelley Hart CEO, in 2015 after the clousre of the Boroughs Council for Voluntary Service (CVS). The closure led to a huge hole right in the centre of the Boroughs Volunteer Sector with many organisations feeling the additional strain of now having to self recruit volunteers.

Shelley, with her extensive Voluntary Sector knowledge knew that Havering needed a central point to source volunteers and also a place for people to go to who had the desire to volunteer so embarked on a journey to establish a new Volunteer Centre. The Local Authority supported Shelley heavily and believed in what she wanted to deliver and supported with annual grant funding to keep volunteering thriving in the borough.

Founding a charity has many challenges, with one of the first being a Trustee Board, Shelley was fortunate to have good support from the Community Department at the Local Authority who supported her in obtaining candidates.

The founding Trustees of HVC were Craig Blake from Tapestry, Simon Mackenzie from Witness Service, Jan Scott from Victim Support, Elaine Greenway from Local Authority and Simon Power from Witness Service. Together with Shelley they were able to adopt a constitution, open a community banking account, develop their governing documents and policies and obtain charitable status.

The next hurdles were securing a building to operate from, obtaining the equipment to operate an office, installing phone and internet lines and getting a team to support Shelley with the day to day operations.

Shelley really had to think about the location of the new Volunteer Centre, a place that had excellent transport links as well as an accessible venue that didn’t prevent people from accessing volunteering freely. She knew that for the Volunteer Centre to thrive it had to be a front facing premises, it wouldn’t work being tucked inside another venue and eventually found a suitable location on the High Street in Romford.

The closure of the CVS meant that the new Volunteer Centre could utilise much of the old office equipment such as desks, chairs, computers and general office equipment. These gifted items were crucial in supporting a newly formed charity establish and safeguarded any heavy expenditure in set up costs.

Installing the phone and internet service was a nightmare and one that took a whopping 6 months to finalise, this meant that for the first 6 months HVC’s communication services were a little hit and miss, often using mobile tethering to get us through the day.

As soon as the centre was open the volunteers flocked either looking to volunteer or wanting to come along and support the new centre. It has gone from strength to strength since than and has been a rewarding process for all involved.

Setting up the charity took around 6 months, for Shelley it was a huge leap of faith but having the right supportive network around her and a clear vision of what the Volunteer Centre was to achieve has been key to its successes.