A BROMSGROVE charity which helps the homeless and those struggling financially welcomed a royal visitor yesterday (Thursday).
HRH Sophie, The Countess of Wessex arrived at NewStarts as part of a tour of the county organised by the Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire’s office, HM The Queen’s local representative.
Her Royal Highness spoke to staff and volunteers over coffee to find out about the charity’s work in Bromsgrove, Redditch and South Birmingham before being given a tour of the premises on Sherwood Road.
The Countess was shown the furniture store and the warehouse where she helped pack a box full of essentials, including crockery, cutlery and other items, so it was ready to go out to one of the organisation’s referrals.
Her Royal Highness was also shown the foodbank store where she was told about the parcels put together and, in the coming months, the 150 Christmas packages which will be given to those in need across the district. The Countess also met the organisation’s chef Manuel Pachon who cooks lunches for volunteers and tried an omelette he had created.
The royal then went to see NewStarts Computers where volunteers and the unemployed learn computer literacy skills and where machines are recycled so they can be sold on to generate revenue for the charity. NewStarts also carries out repairs and runs an IT service desk for small businesses. Her Royal Highness, guided by staff, tried her hand at testing one of the computers.
Her visit concluded with the unveiling of a plaque to mark the visit where she said: “I would like to say thank you on behalf of all the families and people you have helped over the years.
“I cannot imagine how they would feel when they receive the help you give them.
“Thank you for everything you do on a daily basis.”
NewStarts’ Chair of Board Nina Marcel said: “On behalf of the staff and volunteers I want to say thank you.
“It has been a very special day in the life of NewStarts.”
The charity’s CEO Marion Kenyon added: “It was wonderful, exciting and a real privilege to welcome the Countess.
“It was lovely to see her, not only speaking to our staff and volunteers, but also getting so involved and trying her hand at a few things they do each day.”
Chef Manuel said: “She loved the omelette. She is definitely the most high profile person I have ever cooked for.”
Another person the Countess met was Gareth Worton, the community champion at nearby Bromsgrove Morrisons which helps out NewStarts and the Basement Project.
Morrisons has a nationwide unsold food programme which sees items delivered to charities, along with some fresh produce and food which has broken packaging but is perfectly fine inside.
Gareth said: “I was chuffed that I was able to explain to Her Royal Highness the special link between Morrisons and NewStarts.”
Coun Helen Jones, the chairman of Bromsgrove District Council, has chosen NewStarts as her charity of the year after several causes were put forward by residents.
She said: “She was really lovely. The royal visit was such a good event for the charity and Bromsgrove.
“I’m really happy that I chose NewStarts for my charity of the year.”
NewStarts has been serving the Bromsgrove community and surrounding areas for more than a decade and has several main aims.
It provides immediate practical support for homeless people when they move into a new home and have nothing. The organisation kits out their accommodation with everything they need – from furniture to cutlery, crockery and other essentials.
The charity also enables volunteers to learn new skills and progress the charity’s work and their own lives in the process and has an environmental benefit as it prevents a lot of good quality nearly new items from going to landfill or being dumped.
And NewStarts also operates a foodbank for those who need parcels for themselves and their families until they get back on their feet.
For more on NewStarts call 01527 882410, visit www.newstarts.org.uk or search for the charity on Facebook and Twitter.