In Charlbury, the Cornerstone project provides a place to talk, food produce sharing, food parcels, uniform boxes, and additional learning support for local families and households in need.
Since the beginning of the project in 2020, Cornerstone has grown its connections with local people and other organisations in Charlbury becoming the place for people to go to when they need help all year round.
Open six days a week, from the Corner House rooms, the team of volunteers from St Mary’s Church and the community, currently provide regular food parcels for 20 households. Surplus food is sourced from the Oxford Food Hub and SOFEA and local people donate their home-grown fresh produce to the community food shelf helping to reduce waste and limit the impact on the environment.
The project also operates a Give and Take principle to encourage the whole community to engage, be generous, and compassionate. Many who have received food aid also volunteer at the centre and those donating food are able to receive meals from other donations.
The Learning Cafe forms part of the Cornerstone project and offers primary school children additional after school learning support from retired teachers. Good connections with the local Charlbury Primary school enable teaching staff to identify those children who could benefit from additional one-to-one support from the Learning Cafe.
A Place to Talk is another key aspect of the Cornerstone project. Through a partnership with Citizens Advice, Cornerstone volunteers have been signposting households to support and advisory services to meet their needs. Volunteers are available for people to chat to, share their concerns and worries and access support that otherwise might not be available to them.
Cornerstone Manager, Jo Paton, shares more about the impact of the project:
“We have seen a rise in the number of families coming to us for help with food and finances over the past year and expect this to continue with the current cost of living crisis. We aim to continue providing a base for all in Charlbury and help build a stronger community.
“It has been wonderful to see local people from all backgrounds feeling that Cornerstone belongs to them, visiting regularly for a chat with us, and staying connected as a community. We were able to stay open throughout the pandemic and this meant that people who were lonely had someone to talk to, so the social aspect has become a central part of the work and something which local people have benefitted from.”
St Mary’s Church, Charlbury received a grant from the Development Fund in the diocese to support the project and respond to the growing needs of their local community. In doing so the church has demonstrated one of the ways of living out the Christian faith and being an outward-focussed community.
Listen to Margie Glasgow speaking on BBC Radio Oxford on Sunday 13 November about the Cornerstone project and the different support offered to the Charlbury community: