Grandad’s Front Room in Bognor Regis is a CIC like no other. From the outside you see a selection of curiosities and collectables – each sporting a witty label and random price tag. There are shelves on the doorstep packed with bread for anyone in need to take free of charge. There are signs stating that every penny and donation received goes straight back into the community of which it is the heart.
Venture over the threshold and a warm welcome greets everyone from the ‘Grandadders’ on duty. Out of towners come to shop, while locals come to connect, to offer time, to ask for sign posting for help or just to sit for a while with a brew and a biccie in a place where no judgements are made.
Near the counter is a cabinet of trophies and pinned to the walls are copies of clippings galore – each one telling a different story about how the business has offered help and support to charitable groups, council initiatives and locals alike. The ways in which Grandad’s Front Room helps is as diverse as the items it sells and shares; A minion outfit with one eye on you, a mirror that comes with a free reflection, a WW2 Army Uniform, a framed photo of somebody’s uncle from a bygone era…
The only constant in the assortment of people, products and price tags is the founding Grandad, Danny Dawes. His energy, passion and capacity to connect with all who come have created something fresh and refreshing.
Such is his ‘success’ that those in need from outside his jurisdiction are sent to him for help, local authorities have taken on events and initiatives he has created, and spin-off self-contained support initiatives have grown from the ideas and ideals of those that meet here: including a communications network for vulnerable army veterans who are missing and a working farm and campsite offering therapy and holidays for those with emotional difficulties and special education needs are two recent examples.
But ask Danny what it’s all about and he is characteristically humble. “We are led by the Community: We believe that the payment is not in the pounds and pennies, but in the smile on the face or the tear wiped from the eye.”
“We give hope. We furnish homes for those escaping domestic abuse, in recovery or leaving homelessness from pots and pans to all furniture. We provide Community Allotments and a Community Larder so that all can eat. We provide fundraising equipment to empower and enable Community groups. We offer a safe space to those who feel anxious, nervous, or feel threatened. We bring those that are socially isolated into the fold of Community We believe that our societal impact is of more relevance to those we help than our bank balance.”
It’s a long list and having met Danny and his team of Grandadders – all of whom are volunteers – the truth is the actual list is as long as the number of people who have each received help of any sort, because Grandad does not help in a generic or repetitive way. Further he not only solves the immediate problem, he seeks to get to the cause and address that too.
Needless to say the testimonials for Grandad’s Front Room are many in number. Sue White, Co-ordinator of Bognor Regis Foodbank elected Grandad’s Front Room as a place to hold and distribute its vouchers safe in the knowledge that they will help feed those in real need, furnish their homes when they get them, and because it has also help the foodbank itself to function.
“We recently had to return two sofas which we used in the foodbank to the person who lent them to us. Danny supplied replacements free of charge. This has meant that our clients have somewhere to sit while we speak to them. We have also been included in a number of community meetings that Grandad’s Front Room have arranged. We have found these very useful and a great opportunity to network with local agencies.” Sue explains.
Unsurprisingly the The Small Business Big Heart Award is not Grandad’s Front Room first accolade. Grandad’s Front Room won the 2018-19 Arun Business of the Year awarded by Arun District Council. Miriam Nicholls, Council and Business Community Link says, “The judges were blown away by their commitment to their community, be it furnishing properties from nothing, providing beds and clothing, hot meals or simply a cup of tea along with a listening ear. It literally brought tears to the eyes of our judges and to many of the 250 people that attended the Award ceremony.”
Sandra Daniels, District Councillor adds “The unique way Grandad’s Front Room has been marketed; clever, quirky and fun, has broken down barriers, and made a serious attempt at community cohesion by being approachable and non-threatening, thus encouraging less confident and vulnerable members of the community to feel comfortable to just pop in, and be signposted to other services if necessary, in a way that previously they would never have even attempted.”
But it’s not just those who work and volunteer with people in need that sing Grandad’s praises. In the course of the Small Business Big Heart Award entry process the judges were overwhelmed with the personal testimonials made in support of the business.
Here’s a small selection…
“Finding Grandads front room was the best thing I did when I first moved to Bognor and was feeling a bit lost and alone.”
“My son has Aspergers and has found getting a job very difficult. Grandad has taken him on as a Volunteer on Work Experience. The day he found out he was going to work with Grandad he came home with a huge smile, so very happy and could not stop talking about his time there.”
“These guys are just one in a million. I have never felt so overwhelmed with so much generosity and kindness when I was in a time of need. They are all so welcoming and genuinely just want to do all they can to help you no matter who you are and whatever your situation. What these guys do for the community is just amazing. You can't leave without a smile on your face.”
“Having moved to Bognor a year ago, thanks in very large part to Grandad’s Front Room I now have a support network of friends and work colleagues that I couldn't have imagined or hoped for. An absolute gem and a true asset to Bognor and the surrounding villages.”