Connecting with the High Sheriff of Staffordshire

As Place of Welcome Facilitators for the areas of the Black Country, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent and North Shropshire, we want to make sure that Places of Welcome are known and valued in their communities – we want to make sure that everyone has heard about them, so they know there is somewhere to go, locally, for a friendly conversation and free cuppa as and when needed.

So, with this in mind it was wonderful that on Friday 1st March 2024 that we were able to showcase four of the 185 Places of Welcome in the Diocese of Lichfield to High Sherriff of Staffordshire, Victoria Hawley. 


We started the morning with a visit to Rugeley Library who host their Place of Welcome around a large table in the library and on this particular rainy morning it was great to see a large number of people arriving in good humour. One lady who braved the weather said that if she hadn’t come out, she would have been miserable at home. That morning, The library’s on site Supervisor, Nicola Speed had arranged for Morwenna Rae, Collections Officer, from the Museum of Cannock Chase to bring in some items from the museum themed around the topic of Fashion and Beauty in the 60’s and 70’s, with some interesting exhibits such as an epilator and a hair net made from human hair!


After a cuppa and biscuit, it was off to the next stop on our Places of Welcome mini tour, St Paul’s Church, Rugeley where we received a friendly greeting at the door and were quickly settled into seats at another large table where we had wonderful conversations, much laughter and met a special canine visitor – Tink the Dog! There were plates of biscuits and we shared a cake too.

Just down the road, our next stop was Heath Hayes Community Managed Library where we heard about all of the amazing activities hosted by the library to engage its local community. More refreshments were on offer and people were knitting and completing jigsaws at this Place of Welcome, knitted items being donated to the Cannock Chase Knits initiative Cannock Chase Knits Together! - Creative Chase. Here friendships had been made and those friendships had led to taking holidays together! 

Our last, but by no means least, stop was St John’s Church, Heath Hayes for a free two course lunch, provided by wonderful volunteers. In a cosy room, with tablecloths and table service, with the altar doubling up as the cake table, we were offered a choice of either a jacket potato or Ploughman’s lunch and then either homemade Victoria sponger or lemon drizzle cake. This felt like such a treat! Of course, yet again there was plenty of chatter and connections made. I was told by one volunteer that the people gathered for lunch, when they first came to the Place of Welcome, did not know each other, but now they know each other well and if someone is missing, they notice and want to make sure they are OK. People now tell each other when they are on holiday, so they know not to worry. Victoria Hawley, High Sheriff was told that when they first started meeting the room was quiet and they had to put on the radio for background noise. Now there is plenty of conversation and you wouldn’t hear the radio!

The morning was a wonderful opportunity for High Sheriff Victoria to witness first-hand the value of the Places of Welcome network and the sense of community created. This is what she had to say about her day.


“Wow, what an amazing time I had with you all on Friday's visits to the various Places of Welcome. I really was blown away by the friendship, compassion, dedication and warmth that we saw.  Clearly the groups mean so much to the communities they serve and it is so heartwarming.  The support you give the volunteers is obviously much appreciated too.  Thank you for sharing it all with me.”


High Sheriff Victoria Hawley used the analogy of a woven basket to describe how Places of Welcome form part of a network of community support, she said “I see Places of Welcome and other voluntary community groups forming the basket that holds the community inside, with the handle being the support of the council and other statutory organisations. The basket weave of community groups and organisations is so powerful.” 


With thanks to all of our Places of Welcome, but especially to Rugeley Library, St Paul’s Church Rugeley, Health Hayes Community Managed Library and St John’s Church Heath Hayes for their amazing hospitality!

Page last updated: Wednesday 20th March 2024 1:13 PM
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