Back in June, I attended the Annual General Meeting of Wirral Churches Ark Project. I don't make a habit of going to AGMs, but as the PCC rep I thought I should go on your behalf.
The meeting was not well attended; apart from “Ark” staff and the Board of Trustees – which includes our very own Ian Cubbin – there was only a handful of volunteers and church representatives present. I suppose that is the usual fate of AGMs, unless something contentious is happening.
Wirral Ark is a very different organisation from that in which our Vicar volunteered in his youth (!), although its aim remains the same: to offer support to adult homeless people. Thanks to a £1.4 million grant from the Homes and Community Agency, the main hostel, Mary Cole House, is undergoing a major extension and refurbishment project that is due for completion in March next year at a cost of nearly £2 million pounds. Whilst this work proceeds the Ark is occupying three adjacent houses down in New Brighton. It continues to house other homeless people in the Grand Trunk (an ex public house which has six flats and the Ark offices) and in the seven “Ark Angel” houses in which Ark staff prepare people for life back in the community.
We had a number of interesting presentations at the meeting, as well as the usual business of election of trustees, approval of accounts and so forth. We were shown detailed plans of the extended Mary Cole House, with an accompanying video. I can't show you the video but the plan and details of the project are in the Annual Report. I have placed a copy of the report in each of our three churches.
The Reverend Robert Nelson, who has been with the Ark since its foundation 26 years ago, showed us his MBE which the Queen presented to him in May this year in recognition of his services to homeless people and the community of Wirral. Bob has been Chair of the Board of Trustees for many years. He explained that he feels he has received the award on behalf of all Ark’s workers and supporters. I asked if that meant that we all got to wear the medal in turn...!
In his address the Chief Executive proudly drew attention to the new “Ark” logo. I've put a copy at the top of this article. I said from the floor that I thought it a pity that the new logo no longer makes reference to “Wirral Churches”. I was assured that the ethos of the organisation remains firmly Christian. I still think the omission of a direct reference to Wirral Churches is a retrograde move. In fairness, if you hover your mouse over the logo on the Ark's website it does flash up “Wirral Churches' Ark Project”.
I also asked why the website says that no new volunteers are being taken on. The CEO replied that the Ark's temporary accommodation doesn't lend itself to using volunteers but that that will change when clients return to Mary Cole House. So, if you want to volunteer some time to help, be patient!
Even though the organisation now has a turnover of the order of £1 million a year, donations still make the difference between meeting basic needs and going the extra mile. Moreover, the “Ark” needs to raise around £200,000 to complete the rebuilding project. So “Thank you” to all Ark's supporters, both individuals and the PCC.