Property deal aids Midlands charity’s expansion drive

From left, Lianne Kirkman and Kaleigh Brown

A much-loved Leamington charity which helps those in their time of need has tripled its footprint to meet increasing demand.

The Helping Hands Community Project – whose 60 volunteers help vulnerable individuals to get back on their feet – has moved into two-storey 4,600 sq ft premises on Althorpe Street on a new lease with assistance from leading Midlands law firm, Wright Hassall.

The new building will house the charity’s offices, as well as its popular drop-in centre which has regularly welcomed around 30 people per session throughout the Coronavirus pandemic for food, support and necessities.

It means the charity’s initial premises on Gloucester Street – which has served as a shop, drop-in centre and office space for the past four-and-a-half years – will now operate solely as the charity’s shop.

The expansion comes off the back of a challenging period for the charity which had turned its Gloucester Street base into a makeshift food store during lockdown, which served more than 18,000 meals across three months. The shop, alongside the Gateway Café in Warwick, has since re-opened.

Lianne Kirkman is the CEO of Helping Hands, and revealed the office expansion could not have come at a better time as the charity gears up to re-open its drop-in sessions from September.

She said: “We were seeing a rise in demand anyway before the Coronavirus pandemic, so we are expecting to see an even stronger spike in demand now because of the impact that Coronavirus has had on people’s lives – whether that is losing everything from redundancy or relationship breakdowns whilst in lockdown.

“We were simply running out of room and it wouldn’t have been long until we would have been at full capacity for some of our sessions, but the new premises means we can now accommodate 60 people at any one time for our drop-in sessions. We will also now have dedicated rooms for counselling and one-to-one support sessions.

“Prior to lockdown we had recently started a support session dedicated to vulnerable women where they can make friends and bond over activities such as cooking to crafts, but most importantly, for them to know that whatever problems they are facing, they are not alone. The take-up on the sessions was encouraging and the new space we now have will enable us to grow these sessions in the future.

“Our soup kitchen and sessions to help people prepare for the world of work are as popular as ever, but we are expecting demand for our ‘house 2 home’ re-homing project to double over the coming weeks.

“The expansion has been mainly funded by public donations, so I’d like to thank everyone who has donated to us over the years, along with Wright Hassall who played a key role in helping us to finalise the property deal, which will hopefully give us solid foundations to help even more people over the coming years.”

Kaleigh Brown, Solicitor in Wright Hassall’s Commercial Real Estate team, supported Helping Hands through the conveyancing process.

Kaleigh added: “This is a deal that will directly benefit so many people during their time of need, and also gives Helping Hands the flexibility to review if the property still meets their needs in a few years’ time.

“As a firm, Wright Hassall is passionate about backing local charities – whether it is helping with their operations or staff fundraising for charity – so we were delighted to support Helping Hands in expanding their reach in the town.”