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  • Writer's pictureIan Green

Not just a handout but a hand up!

Updated: Jun 21

Life Church Bedworth runs an amazing outreach to meet the needs in their community! It’s called The Harbour Centre and recently celebrated its 2nd birthday.

One of the fundamental aims of the Harbour Centre is to enable; empower and to facilitate opportunities for people to use the building as they need to, and not as we think they may need. 

When they opened, they’d estimated that 38,000 people would come through the doors of the Harbour Centre in the first year, but 56,000 individuals visited!

The Harbour Centre was born out of the covid pandemic. Volunteers who were helping to run the foodbank saw the items were mainly tinned products, with rarely fresh fruit or vegetables to give away and limited variety. Whilst the foodbank is a wonderful resource. They were distressed at regularly seeing men and women in tears having to ask for food. They sensed that their dignity, their respect, their choices and independence were being eroded and wanted to do something about it. This was the catalyst to looking for a new model of food support.

“If we remember that humans are spiritual, social, psychological, and physical beings, our poverty-alleviation efforts will be more holistic in their design and execution.”  Corbett & Fikkert (When helping hurts). They decided to create a holistic approach to meeting their communities needs.

In 2022 they opened the Harbour Centre, which is split into 3 areas - the Storehouse (community grocery), the Galley coffee shop and the Cabin area, where courses take place. The Community grocery store was originally set up through partnership with the Message Trust, who provided an incredible support network in their infancy, but since December 2023 has been run exclusively by Life Church, to better serve the specific needs of their community.

The Store House provides low cost food and provision for those who need a little extra help. Through the continued donations of individuals and local businesses, they are able to keep the shelves of the storehouse stocked for those who rely on them to put food on the table. For £5 annual membership, the Storehouse allows you to buy 12 items for  £5. Free memberships or shops are also available to those unable to afford it.

At the end of their first year over 2,500 people had signed up as Grocery Store members, with 130 households visiting daily.

The Galley coffee shop has up to 300 people visit each week and sells affordable refreshments and cakes in a welcoming environment. Creating a warm, safe space for members of the community to come and enjoy social time together.

Gentle pastoral support is also available as people become comfortable and trust is developed. A small number of pastoral folk spend time chatting to customers and volunteers. Their role is key to ensuring we are not seen as “too busy” to stop and listen. This allows us to signpost people to other layers of support to other areas of the Harbour Centre if needed.

The Cabin area is a resource for the community, facilitating multiple courses and events in conjunction with a variety of local and national agencies. They run courses or groups that help across all areas of life, from health & wellbeing, financial advice, kids & families sessions, social activities and MP surgeries. We also have 4 dapapods which are used for 1:1 conversations, ensuring confidentiality and dignity. We are often approached by different organisations who are looking for space and we take time to pray and think through whether we can facilitate their requests. Prayer is always an essential element of the Harbour Centre, they open everyday with prayer and have a prayer team supporting them.

The Harbour Centre currently has 3 part-time members of staff, so without their volunteers they wouldn’t be able to carry out all the activities which they offer. They are so thankful for the incredible work of nearly 100 volunteers, undertaking many roles ranging from serving customers to marketing and promotion. Many of our volunteers do not profess to have a faith but a number of them have started a faith journey, come to faith and been baptised! A number of their volunteers also have some mental health concerns, so it’s pure joy seeing how their confidence increases as they become part of the team in all of its ordinariness.

Their phenomenal relationships with their local councils, their M.P. and 30 different agencies has been essential to win the respect and trust of outside agencies to bring about that sense of real community. They work with them to offer different holistic layers of support, including Social prescribers, CAVA It (main voluntary agency) P3 and NHS Swift teams, George Eliot chaplaincy team and Citizens Advice.

It’s called the Harbour centre because they wanted people to see the centre as a place of protection during the storms of life, a place where they can be refreshed and then re-equipped to continue their journey.

The Harbour Centre team are amazed at how God has continued to bless all areas of the Harbour Centre throughout the past 2 years. They’re so grateful for the many individuals, businesses and organisations who have faithfully supported this multifaceted ministry.

To find out more or support this project, please visit

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