The neighbourly charity shop

Sarah Jones discovers there’s a lot more than a bargain on offer at The Salvation Army Thrift Shop

The Salvation Army Thrift Shop

Vic and Shawn Moye outside The Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Forest Road, Walthamstow

Waltham Forest has a fair few charity shops but there aren’t many able to inspire affection in quite the way the Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Forest Road is known to do.

Set in a huge imposing turreted building at the junction of Ruby Road, the unassuming shop sits in stark contrast to the grandiose charm of the stunningly restored William Morris Gallery opposite.

Outward appearances aside the two buildings have something unexpected in common. The famous William Morris quote “fellowship is life” sums up the ethos of the shop well.

It’s not the architecture of the former Apostolic Church that attracts the goodwill of its diverse group of volunteers but the sense of community they feel when they are there. Local people from many and varied faith groups are drawn to the shop to offer their varied skills for the benefit of the wider community.

With a commitment to inclusivity, Shawn and Vic Moye had been married for two years when they took over as church leaders of the Walthamstow Salvation Army and Community Church in November 2008. They have since built a resource far exceeding a simple charity shop remit.

Shawn said: “As leaders we develop the community and spiritual aspects of the church, which the shop is part of.

“We wanted to create a safe place, to serve our community and create opportunities to interact.

“We embrace different cultures; there’s strength in diversity. This is reflective of our volunteer group and the people who access and come to our groups.”

The shop remains solid in its commitment to ‘thrift’. Which is good news if you’re on a tight budget as it stocks not only clothes but also an eclectic array of excellent second-hand furniture.

The area at the back of the shop hosts a number of events including parent and toddler groups such as Wriggly Rhythms, Family Fitness, Messy Church, singing groups and rainbows, brownies and girl guides.

Vic, a qualified guider, said: “We want our neighbours to meet each other, become friends and enjoy whatever we have to offer.”

The hugely popular community café, with its ever-changing menu from around the globe ranging from authentic home-cooked Armenian and Cambodian dishes through to samosas, jacket potatoes, biryani and excellent cake was created for this very reason.

Open most Fridays during term-time, the cafe’s tables are deliberately joined together to promote inclusivity and friendship. Young families are welcome and there’s a play area with toys, books and crayons freely available.

Further support comes in the shape of monthly cooking classes where anyone from single people to whole families learn how to cook in a fun, healthy – and affordable – way.

“We try to be as supportive as possible,” said Vic. “One young mother expressed a desire to start her own baking business, we were very happy to promote her and now she makes 50 cakes a week for local businesses.”

With two little girls Tilly, aged seven, and Ella, five, the couple have strong connections with local schools and have led a number of assemblies around the borough. There is plenty of encouragement and support for local residents wishing to hold street parties, and a brass band can usually be heard somewhere around Christmas time.

The Salvation Army also offers support with food and clothing in partnership with local social workers and children’s centres and run a food bank.

Shawn added: “We have an annual big collection appeal but we always need tinned and dried food with good shelf life.”

This year the Salvation Army celebrates its 150th anniversary. Now a global organisation, it was founded in East London to bring transformation into the community and people’s lives. Values William Morris would surely approved of.