Published: 12:09, 30 March 2017
A charity shop with a difference is celebrating a successful first year in Gravesend High Street.
Made In Kent (MIK) opened its doors with two main aims – raising money for mental health charity North Kent Mind (NKM) and helping those who have suffered get their lives back on track.
All of the products on sale, from artwork to homemade jams, are locally sourced and all of the volunteers who work there have battled back from their own mental health problems.
The shop has proved popular and was a real hot-spot for locals at Christmas time. There’s now an ambition to offer goods for sale online as business continues to grow.
But as good as the trade has been, especially since the re-opening of Gravesend Borough Market just over the road, helping those in need is undoubtedly the shop’s biggest success story.
Emma Jarnell, employment services manager at NKM and project lead for MIK, said: “The part that’s been going really well for me is that it’s linked to NKM’s employment services, so I see a lot of people recovering or suffering from mental health.
"We all moan about it but a job gives you something to focus on and something to get you up in the morning.
“Working here builds confidence and self-esteem and a large number of them do a placement in the shop and then move on to full-time employment elsewhere.
“They build up friendships with other volunteers here and end up having a little social network, which is good as some of the people we see are quite socially isolated.
“If they’re not feeling great one day they know there’s empathy and understanding here. They always come back and they keep in touch once they’ve moved on.”
One of the people to have benefited from NKM’s support is 59-year-old Ann Hudson, from Dartford.
She first started receiving help from the charity more than five years ago and was recently offered a role at the shop, where she is now working three days a week during a three-month placement.
Ann said: “In 2011 I took an overdose and cut my wrists – you can still see the scars. I was admitted to Littlebrook Hospital.
“They had leaflets on the side there and I picked up one for NKM.”
From there she went on to go to some of their community meet-ups, including a weekly computer class and a food group.
She said the charity was instrumental in getting her back on her feet when she was feeling low and is cherishing her role as part of the in-store team.
All profits from MIK go towards NKM and its work in supporting people like Ann.
You can find the store at 54 High Street, Gravesend, DA11 0AY.
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