NESTLED in the heart of one of the most deprived parts of central South-end, a community project with a difference is helping hundreds of people turn their lives around.

The Storehouse project, based at the Coleman Street Community Centre, is run by Southend Vineyard, a Christian church which has an emphasis on community and outreach work.

The Storehouse’s motto “reaching out, changing lives”, could not be more apt, with the centre providing attendees with everything from square meals to showers, and haircuts to new clothes.

John Williams, the project’s community outreach worker, said: “This job is what life is all about.

“This is a place where anybody can be helped, and the volunteers also get an enormous sense of satisfaction.

“It’s not about being a goody-two-shoes, it’s about giving people the tools they need to change their lives.”

The project is proving to be an extraordinary success, with the number of registered attendees almost quadrupling since this time last year.

Numbers have swelled from 250 to 970, and the growth of the group is also helping foster a greater sense of community in the area.

Mr Williams, 32, said: “Before this community centre came back there was not much to do here, and there was a real sense of isolation.

“Now people are finding they can come here socially, and it’s helping the whole regeneration of the estate.

“By giving them pride and power, hopefully we can join forces to get rid of some of the area’s problems.”

With three sessions a week attracting up to 120 people a time, the Storehouse has a friendly, bustling atmosphere where the passion attendees and volunteers have for the project shines through.

Paul Throssell, 63, co-manages the Storehouse project, and has been volunteering with Southend Vineyard for the past 11 years.

The retired greengrocer said: “It’s a hard job to do emotionally, because often the people who come here have very complex stories. But we love the people who come in, regardless of who they are or what they have done. We love them all, because that is what it is all about.”

Through a partnership with supermarket Sainsbury’s, the Storehouse food parcel programme hands out up to 100 parcels each session, which contain both fresh and tinned goods.

Simon Matthews, Southend Vineyard’s community pastor, said: “The people we help tend to be on very low incomes, so we are trying to help them get their five-a-day.

“Sainsbury’s has been wonderful and without its support we wouldn’t be able to supply such a number of parcels.”

Formerly based in Westcliff, the project moved to the Coleman Street centre late last year, after negotiating a ten-year lease with Southend Council.

As the project has gone from strength to strength, Southend Vineyard has forged partnerships with organisations including the council, advocacy service Family Mosaic, Southend Adult Community College, South Essex Homes and Southend YMCA.

Mr Matthews, 39, said: “Working with other services has enhanced what we do considerably.

“Through building a relationship with people we can ascertain what their core issues are and work out how best to help them.

“We catch the people who might otherwise fall through the net and help match them with the services they require.”

With increasing numbers of attendees turning their hand to volunteering, the need for a dedicated volunteer co-ordinator is growing, and the group hopes to find a partner to sponsor such a role.

Mr Matthews said: “About 50 per cent of our volunteers come from within the client group and the number is growing.

“We want to build on this and develop these volunteers into potential employees, so we need someone to co-ordinate people on the days the centre isn’t open, and help them develop their skills.”

For more information about Southend Vineyard and the Storehouse, visit or call 01702 612900.