Second MiCommunity shop opens in Margate

MiCommunity shop opening in Ramsgate Road with John Finnegan (centre)

A new, second venue for the MiCommunity social shop  has opened in Margate.

The store provides cut-priced food and household goods for all and is helped to bring in stock through public donations.

Previously there was a membership scheme and people needed to be on benefits or a low income. But founder John Finnegan says these rules no longer apply in a climate where so many people are struggling.

The newest venue is at 94 Ramsgate Road, by the Victoria traffic lights. The shop at 9 High Street, Margate, also continues to be open for customers.

The MiCommunity scheme began life as a foodbank venture when the pandemic hit. John and Darryn De La Soul, who had been working with the St Austin and St Gregory’s food parcels delivery service, opened the Margate Independent Food Bank at Union Church in 2020.

The following year it moved to a shop in the old town and then in 2022 relocated to a larger base at 9 High Street.

The format was changed to a community shop, meaning people had more choice of low cost goods.

Last year a Cliftonville branch was opened but the impending sale of that building has prompted the move to the ‘Victoria Lights’ shop.

John and team members

John, who will celebrate his 70th birthday this month, said: “We moved here from Cliftonville as Bread and Butter and Sweet Caroline’s ( the building MiCommunity shop was based in) are closing so this move is for our long term future. Thanks to Prospects UK who have been brilliant and got the shop ready in just four weeks.

“We had a trial opening Friday and Saturday and officially opened yesterday (July 1) and it has been busy. All the other shops and businesses here have been brilliant and welcoming.

“Demand is high and has been for a long while. We aren’t getting any local or central government grants and that’s why we moved away fro the food bank to the community shop. This helps us to help people. Anyone can use this shop as everyone is struggling.

“In the last four years we have given out something like 58,000 food parcels. When we started the food parcels worked out at about £5 a bag but you couldn’t fill a bag for that now, it’s more like £12.”

The shop will be managed by Sue Mills, who was in charge at the Cliftonville site, with a team of around eight volunteers. There are a further 12 volunteers at the High Street store.

The official opening yesterday (July 1) was attended by guests including Margate Mayor Cllr Jack Packman and county councillor Barry Lewis.

Cllr Packman said: “We are incredibly fortunate here in Margate that we have volunteers like John and his team. Without them more and more people would not be able to afford to shop and have to use the local food banks who are seeing an increase in numbers.

“With shops like this it allows people a freedom of choice and it’s just like shopping in a local supermarket. I am grateful to Dayne at Prospects for working with us to at short notice to work out a suitable package for the commercial premises.

“A big thank you to Mi Community Shops and all their volunteers for all they do across the town.”

MiCommunity is taking work experience students from Hartsdown Academy and will be teaming up with Margate Fire Station for some events this summer.

The Ramsgate Road shop has parking at the rear for five vehicles and the MiCommunity van, which needs replacing.

MiCommunity shops are open Monday-Saturday, 10.30am to 3.30pm.

Find out about MiCommunity Shops here

Fundraising music event

“We Shall Overcome” is bringing Indie Rockers David Devant and his Spirit Wife to The Ramsgate Music Hall on 26th July to play a benefit gig in support of Margate Independent Foodbank CIC and MiCommunity Shops.

Event organisers say: “As the cost of living crisis continues, people are turning in increasing numbers to food banks simply to feed their families. Many of these people are working multiple jobs but are just unable to make ends meet.

“Child poverty, food banks, benefit sanctions, cuts to disabled support, carers in crisis, soup kitchens, rough sleeping, homelessness, mental health crisis, pawn shops, payday lenders and the gig economy. Why do these things exist in one of the richest economies on the planet?

“We Shall Overcome is a movement of musicians, artists, promotors, activists and community organisers who are angry about the human costs of austerity policies but who want to do something practical to help those affected.

“As the economic climate grows ever colder, many people feel abandoned by the government. The result is communities need to look after each other. Because if we don’t do it, no other bugger else will.”

Tickets are £17.50 at https://www.wegottickets.com/event/620610 with doors opening at 7:30pm. Details here

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