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Award winning social enterprise celebrates first year

The Pontrilas based Community Interest Company (CIC) Care and Repair Enterprise (C.A.R.E) is celebrating a very successful first year this week.

C.A.R.E is based at Pontrilas Post Office, which is run and operated as a Post Office Local offering traditional post office services as well as village stores.

However, there is far more to this CIC whose “social purpose is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people in the Golden Valley area.”

C.A.R.E reaches out to its community in a unique and innovative way; not only by keeping the post office and local shop facilities going but by providing support services to local older residents and those with impaired mobility, who choose to live Independently in their own home. CARE does this by offering a range of services from helping with gardening and household chores to assisting with form filling and looking after pets.

C.A.R.E also provides a ‘telephone buddy’ service; a service which helps to combat loneliness and isolation commonly experienced by older people living alone. The service, which is manned by volunteers, makes a call to isolated members of the community once a week to chat informally about any subject of interest.

The C.A.R.E team is led by Sonya, Nigel and Maggie Sevenoaks.Sonya Cary, the founding director of C.A.R.E said, “As a Community Interest Company, it was vital that we continue to operate the services of the Post Office in Pontrilas; to lose the post office would have had a huge negative impact on village life.  

Both the post office and village store are services that are crucial pillars of the community and a rural village without a post office or shop is a very different place from one with the same facility.

Sonya further states, “It is hard to quantify the real community benefit, although some estate agents estimate that the presence of a shop/post office can add 10% or more to the value of a house in a village. 

Historically, Government has recognised the social importance of rural post offices and albeit Pontrilas Post Office is no longer salaried, it will provide a remuneration package which will be used to cover the premises’ rent and utilities. 

A social enterprise conducts its business for its ‘social purpose’.  We conduct business in the same way as a normal business, however, we do not trade for ‘personal profit’.  Any profits made are directly invested back into the support services in order to bring about community benefit.” 

Elaine Edwards, Community Enterprise and Finance Officer, Herefordshire Council added, “I am really pleased to have advised, mentored and supported Sonya Cary in her endeavours to establish a social enterprise. C.A.R.E benefits the community of South Herefordshire and I have been delighted to be involved from pre-start up right through to identifying and implementing additional business opportunities, of which combining the post office local was one such opportunity.

I have assisted with guiding Sonya through all aspects of business planning, identifying the best and most appropriate legal structure for C.A.R.E to operate under. Together we have developed good practice and governance to support C.A.R.E to make good partnership, network and regional links.

It has taken time and it has been far from an easy journey but with Sonya’s determination and commitment to her community, willingness to take on board advice, changes in approach and direction, I am really delighted to see her social enterprise go from strength to strength.”

C.A.R.E is not only celebrating its first year this week, the CIC was also ‘highly acclaimed’ in the 2014 Social Enterprise West Midlands awards.

Tags: Community and living