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Routes to Roots, a homeless charity based in Poole run by a group of volunteers, have just been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The Right Reverend Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne and R2R’s Patron, said: “I am delighted that the whole team at Routes to Roots have been recognised in this way. The volunteers, trustees and supporters have all worked so hard not only to continue to care and provide for rough sleepers and the homeless in Poole through challenging times, but to increase provision through the recent purchase and refurbishment of the Genesis Centre. 

“The charity has come a long way in its 20 years in serving the needs of others and demonstrating Christ’s love for the lost, the lonely and the least.”

Routes to Roots have been helping the homeless and vulnerably housed in Poole for the past 20 years and now run the town’s first building solely dedicated to helping the homeless. The Genesis Centre, which opened in March 2022, is destined to become the hub for all support and help available locally from charities, churches and local authorities; ‘a one-stop place of change’.

The Genesis Centre is the realisation of a long-held dream for Routes to Roots and this would never have been possible without the dedication, kindness and hard work of their incredible group of volunteers.

Routes to Roots is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. Their work, along with others from across the UK, reminds us of all the ways in which fantastic volunteers are contributing to their local communities and working to make life better for those around them.

Stephanie Buckley has volunteered for Routes to Root since it started, 20 years ago;

Through God’s calling, I became a volunteer with Routes to Roots Christian Homeless Charity, from its birth and joined an enthusiastic team to love and care for those in need. We meet with them in the midst of their difficulties and heartaches, and seek to give these men and women the best of care in food, clothing, housing, a listening ear and support, and often enjoy growing fellowship and times of joy.”  

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.

Representatives of Routes to Roots will receive the award crystal and certificate from Angus Campbell, Lord-Lieutenant of Dorset later this summer. In addition, two volunteers from Routes to Roots will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2023 (depending on restrictions at the time), along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

The Revd Pat Southgate, Founder Trustee of the Charity Routes to Roots, said;

“Who would have thought 20 years ago, that those first volunteers who reached out in faith to become the charity Routes to Roots would one day, along with all the many others who have joined us over the years, receive the Queens Award for Volunteers.

“I am immensely proud of all the dedicated volunteers who make Routes to Roots and I hope they are proud of themselves for all they have achieved over those last 20 years. I hope we never forget that this much-deserved award is not just for today but will be ours forever.”

As a charity Routes to Roots is solely dependent on fundraising and the generous donations of individuals and businesses. All money raised goes directly into providing support to those in Poole and enables the charity to provide food, shelter, access to health provision, training and other opportunities to help clients move back into the community.

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Poole’s first building solely dedicated to helping the town’s homeless and vulnerably housed opens its doors on 21 March 2022. Genesis Centre on Hill Street is destined to become the hub for all support and help available locally from charities, churches and the local authorities – a one-stop place of change. The building is wholly owned and operated by Routes to Roots, which this month also celebrates its 20thanniversary. 

The Reverend Pat Southgate, chair of R2R Trustees, spoke of her pride in all that the charity’s volunteers and supporters have been able to achieve: “This is a long-held dream come true. Twenty years ago we were able to bring rough sleepers off the streets for a hot meal for just a few hours on a couple of days a week. Now in that very same building, the old Baptist Church, we will be able to offer not only a hot meal but real life-changing support.

“We are extremely grateful to architect Ken Morgan who enabled us to secure both Listed Building Consent and Planning Application Approval in July 2020 and who has now brought us to the point of being able to open our doors. We are also thankful for the confidence shown in our vision by Talbot Village Trust, who not only provided an interest-free loan to enable us to buy the building but who have also contributed substantially to the renovation costs.”

Routes to Roots purchased the building outright in February 2020 – just in time for the country’s first lockdown. Despite this, the charity carried on with its plans for the complete restoration and refurbishment of the Grade II listed building. This was a major undertaking, which would have been impossible without the tremendous support shown both locally and nationally. Under the pro bono guidance of architect Ken Morgan, nine additional local professionals gave their time and expertise pro bono. Over the two years since the purchase, R2R received nearly £212,000 in grants from 18 foundations and trusts. At the move-in the works have cost nearly £270,000. Other money came from local businesses, churches, schools and individuals.

There is still work to be carried out on a second hall and to the outside of the building and the charity says that fundraising is continuing to pay for this. However, this does not impact its ability to run drop-ins and welcome back outreach partnersto provide addiction, mental and physical health support, chiropody, housing and benefit advice. Shower and laundry facilities are available and there are computers for clients’ use.