It's a blindingly simple idea. A charity shop that supports community projects. HILARIE STELFOX visits The Crossroads Shop in Meltham which is celebrating its 10th anniversary
THE Crossroads Shop in Meltham has raised nearly £250,000 in the 10 years since it was first set up.
Most of the money, raised by the sale of goods donated by members of the community, has found its way back to local people.
"We support any community activity in the village," says Jean Burhouse, secretary of the Crossroads Project.
"We've supported the three schools, buying computers and whiteboards, that kind of thing. Sports clubs come to us for equipment; we've helped the Meltham Mills band; OAPs organisations; guides and scouts; we've bought a wheelchair for the local doctor's surgery."
The list of those who have benefited from Crossroads is comprehensive and includes people of all ages and organisations of all kinds.
Crossroads came into being after representatives of the seven churches in the Meltham Parish got together to see what they could do to serve the local community.
Around 100 volunteers staff the shop in Market Place and the nearby Crossroads Centre, which opened nine years ago.
There are no paid staff so all profits can be given in grants. The centre provides free accommodation to professional agencies such as the Citizens' Advice Bureau and Age Concern, who have an outreach service in Meltham.
Solicitors Ridley and Hall, who offer a free legal service to Crossroads clients, also use the centre.
Although the Crossroads project was the first of its kind in Huddersfield, it was not an entirely new idea.
"We copied ours from one in Burton-in-Trent but now there are shops like this all over the area - in Newsome, Slaithwaite, Crosland Moor and Marsden," explained Jean.
Occasionally, Crossroads supports relief work in other parts of the world.
"When there has been a disaster,"says Canon Jane Austin, who is chairman of the project, "we have given a week's donations. To the tsumani for example. People come into the shop and buy extra, which is a way for them to give aid."
The Crossroads Shop has been extraordinarily successful on many fronts. Not only does it raise substantial amounts of money but it is also a resource for the village community.
"Our volunteers enjoy working here because they're doing something worthwhile and our customers enjoy coming in to browse and have a chat.
"And we're still doing what we were set up to do - providing good quality, second-hand clothing and goods for the community. We want to be able to provide a Babygro for 50p for a young mum who needs one. That's what it's all about," explained Jean.
A committee of volunteers meets four times a year to consider applications for Crossroads grants.
"We give away what we have made. We only keep back what we need to run the shop and centre. Anyone can apply for a grant," added Jean.
Like all charity shops, Crossroads recycles just about everything it receives.
If goods are unsold after two weeks, clothing is either donated to a project in Huddersfield that works in an area of deprivation or sent to the Christian African Relief Trust, which ships containers of clothes and medical supplies to Africa.
Clothing, toys and household goods are also donated to the Women's Refuge.
Now celebrating 10 years in business, the volunteers see no reason why Crossroads should not continue for the next decade and beyond.
"We are incredibly well supported by the people of Meltham, they are very generous," says Jean.
"Quite often you can't get to the back of the shops because of all the black bags of donated goods waiting to be sorted."
For more information check out www.melthamcrossroads.co.uk
* One day, soon after opening, staff at the shop helped a young man cycling through Meltham on a very wet day. Soaked from head to foot he came into the shop for some dry socks and left completed kitted out with underwear, T-shirt and tracksuit (all for £3.60), plus a bag for his wet clothes and directions to Manchester.
* A cameraman working on Where The Heart Is had left his lighting filters at his studio and came into the shop to buy some net curtains, which, apparently, can do the job just as well. His problem was solved for £2.
* Enthusiastic and efficient staff picked up, priced and sold the window dresser's shoes - for 50p - while she was busy in the window one morning. Fortunately, another pair was found for her from the abundant stock in the back room.
* Another volunteer discovered that her reading glasses had been put in a box of old spectacles destined for Africa but managed to retrive them in time.
* The management committee was amused to receive an application from a toddler group for a second grant, to purchase a shed. "We now desperately need this shed to store all the toys purchased from the previous grant - thank you very much."