For 16 years, St Mary’s Community Shop has served the people of Illingworth as a place of sanctuary and will finally close their doors on the 3rd of July. In 2002 the council gave the keys to a small shop front on Turner Avenue South to the community at St Mary’s Church which later became the Parish of Mixenden and Illingworth. Pat and Bob Highley with the help of Anne Roberts and Cheryll Earnshaw have volunteered their time each week to provide a sanctuary on the estate.
“I remember when we first came in 16 years ago. It was in a bit of a state and we had to paint all of the walls” says Pat. “Everything was a deep burgundy colour and there was nothing here except a big metal box in the corner. We started out with just two rails but the most important thing we had was a table and chairs”.
That table and chairs have been the most important part of St Mary’s Community Shop. The primary role they have served in the community has been as a place people in need can come and find help. “What I find most amazing about the shop is the people in real need who arrive with nothing and are greeted with a smile and welcomed in” says Revd Robb Sutherland, Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth. “I have been there when a homeless man came in with no shoes and Pat and Cheryll gave him a whole new wardrobe for nothing and filled his pockets with food”.
Pat is always keen to say that “the community shop has never been about money – we don’t make much anyway. It has been about having a presence on the estate where people can turn. Whether that be an asylum seeker looking for a plate, knife and fork or a Grandma looking for something to give as a Christmas present”.
“As we look to the end of an era it is important to thank everyone who has been so supportive” says Robb. “Since the council gave us the use of the premises sixteen years ago we’ve been able to do so much in the community. Now Together Housing need to increase their revenues and let the shop at a commercial rate we will look at how we as a church can serve the people of Illingworth into the future”.
Pat is keen to emphasise that “the support of the whole community has been amazing! People have been so generous with the things that they have donated and the time that they have given over the years. None of this would have been possible without the help of the wider community and we are going to miss the regulars who we would see each week”.
Thank you for everyone’s support and all of your lovely gifts!