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October-November 2019 | Articles

Entrepreneur supports community food club

Entrepreneur supports community food club

Community food club The Port Grocery has appointed serial entrepreneur Gordon Vickers as its patron – after a year of rapid growth.

The ground-breaking project collects and diverts four tonnes of food – from the likes of Asda, Sainsbury’s and Nandos – from landfill every week.

The food is then passed on in the community shop to members, as well as turned into a free weekly meal for 300 people at a weekly ‘Wednesday Welcome’ meet up at Trinity Methodist Church in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

This pioneering project tackles social and economic isolation, food and fuel poverty, loneliness and debt through the media of food.

Founder Rita Lewis will now be working closely with former Chester hotelier and Rotarian, Gordon, on a longterm strategy for The Port Grocery as it goes from strength to strength.

She said: “We’re over the moon that Gordon is joining our team. It’ll be like having a consultant working with us because of Gordon’s extensive business knowledge and acumen.

“As a serial entrepreneur he has a proven track record and we want him to point things out to us as if it was his own business. We’re also hoping to be able to use some of his contacts to grow The Port Grocery in the coming months.”

Gordon, a long-standing member of Ellesmere Port Rotary, earned the nickname ‘Mr Chester’ while running the Monday Wall City Jazz Club night in the city from 1957 to 1974.

At the same time, he was at the helm of a group and artiste agency, but refused to sign The Beatles because they were ‘too scruffy’.

I was very impressed when I visited The Port Grocery because it deals with local issues 100%. I decided I wanted to get more involved because what they are doing is so worthwhile.”

Gordon founded the Chester Hotels’ Association in 1978 and, in 1987, he transformed a 150-year-old derelict corn mill in the centre of Chester into The Mill Hotel and Spa, which he sold in 2018.

He said: “I was very impressed when I visited The Port Grocery because it deals with local issues 100%. I decided I wanted to get more involved because what they are doing is so worthwhile.

“I will be helping with fundraising, bringing fresh ideas and raising awareness of the great work they do.”

The Port Grocery has grown from a five-week pilot to a seven-day a week operation run by 15 staff and 55 volunteers with the ‘Wednesday Welcome’ becoming a lifeline for hundreds of locals.

The ‘Wednesday Welcome’ also provides non-food items such as clothing and footwear donated by Aldi and free haircuts from Cheshire College hairdressing students.

Staff use two refrigerated vans to collect unwanted food from KFC, Pret A Manger and Tesco three times daily, totalling more than 150 collections a week.

The 600 food club members pay £5 a week and get £16 to £20 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen, dried, fresh and canned food from the community shop.

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