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'I weep on the inside': Heartbreak as outreach centre closes

PUBLISHED: 10:52 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:52 23 September 2019

The community outreach store will close in Novemeber. Picture: Google Maps

The community outreach store will close in Novemeber. Picture: Google Maps

Archant

A community outreach store and drop-in centre has announced it will shut its doors on November 1 after six years.

The High Sheriff of Suffolk, Geoffrey Probert, with Julie Shearing, Theresa Cumbers and Susan Harrison from Sharel@Step. Picture: James Norman.The High Sheriff of Suffolk, Geoffrey Probert, with Julie Shearing, Theresa Cumbers and Susan Harrison from Sharel@Step. Picture: James Norman.

Sharel@STEP will move from their Beccles base following the sale of the shop on Northgate.

The community outreach project, which is part of the charity STEP in Norwich, has been operating in Beccles for six years.

Theresa Cumbers, director of Sharel@STEP moved into the area after she retired from working the charity sector.

However, Mrs Cumbers wanted to continue her work and help those struggling in her own community.

The 79-year-old, from Beccles, said: "Over the years we have helped many people in line with the STEP values of supporting vulnerable people to improve the quality of their lives.

"In terms of advocacy, support and referrals we have helped an average of 500 people each year across a range of issues from welfare benefits, dealing with authorities, domestic violence, physical and mental health and loss, bereavement and financial management."

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The outreach centre provides emotional needs, such as help and advice as well as practical needs such as access to goods and second-hand furniture.

Mrs Cumbers said: "Our vintage teatime get-together for lonely older people have helped people to socialise again and some lasting friendships have been formed.

"As a food bank outlet, we are now dispensing over 500 parcels each year and providing extra help for those most in need."

According to the director, 70pc of the base's foodbank support is given to people in Beccles.

"Beccles is seen as an affluent town, but 70pc of people need the foodbank," she said.

On the shock closure, Mrs Cumbers said: "I have been here six years now, I am sad on the outside, but I weep on the inside.

"Without our dedicated team of staff, volunteers and partner agencies none of this would have been possible. We have seen some of our volunteers go on to obtain paid employment and the trustees extend many thanks to them all."

If you are aware of vacant shop spaces or want more information on Sherel@STEP, contact Mrs Cumbers on 07974518925.

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