Launchpad calls on local community for help to raise £80,000 and open Reading’s first work and life skills centre

In celebration of the Launchpad’s 40th birthday, we are asking for the local community to help raise £80,000 to open Reading’s first work and life skills centre – so vulnerable people can leave homelessness behind for good.

We have acquired a unit in Cardiff Road, just ten minutes’ walk from Launchpad’s town centre offices, where people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home will be able to learn new skills, get back into work, socialise in a safe space and build confidence. It’s going to cost £80,000 to completely refurbish so it’s fit-for-purpose and the bespoke facilities will include:

  • a training kitchen for cooking and barista courses
  • a DIY workshop and laundry area to learn how to maintain a home and practise self-care
  • an IT suite for job searching and online learning
  • a counselling service for talking therapies
  • a space for creative writing, art, photography and wellbeing activities, such as yoga and meditation.

Founded as a soup kitchen in November 1979 by the students at the University of Reading, Launchpad plans to open the work and life skills centre in honour of our recent 40th anniversary. The centre is set to welcome clients in Spring/Summer 2020 and the service will initially support up to 200 people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home.

But with no government funding to help renovate the centre, Launchpad is relying on the crucial support and generosity of local people and businesses to raise £80,000 for the refurbishment, so the charity can get the service off the ground and help local people in need.

Ian Caren, Launchpad’s CEO, explains more about centre: “We know that simply giving a vulnerable person a home is not going to break the cycle of homelessness. Our therapeutic activities and support with education, training and employment has successfully helped people rebuild their lives, and achieve long-term stability and independence. But we’re limited with our current facilities and we want to do more.

“With a dedicated work and life skills centre, we can offer hundreds of people in need the opportunity to turn their life around and in a variety of ways – from taking online courses and applying for jobs, to learning how to cook nutritious meals and receiving counselling to overcome whatever is holding them back. To truly prevent homelessness, we need to give vulnerable people the very best chance of success.

“For 40 years the fantastic people of Reading have supported Launchpad and we’ve gone from a soup kitchen to a holistic service which helps over 1,400 people a year – all because of their generosity. We are hoping that, in celebration of our 40th anniversary, our community can back us once more. We are asking local businesses, schools, colleges, universities, community groups and members of the public to fundraise for us or donate whatever they can – so together we can refurbish the centre, open its doors, and change the lives of local people.”

How can you help open the work and life skills centre?

Whether you make a kind donation to help fund the refurbishment of Reading’s first work and life skills or order a free fundraising pack so you can plan a fundraising event or challenge – together we can raise £80,000.

  • £10 could help buy a set of utensils so clients in supported housing can learn to cook nutritious meals for themselves.
  • £35 could help to fund an online food hygiene course for a client who wants to get a job in catering.
  • £50 could help to buy a month’s worth of materials for art therapy so clients who struggle to communicate can express themselves.
  • £150 could help buy tools for the centre’s DIY workshop so clients can learn to maintain and take pride in their home.
  • £250 could fund an industrial washing machine for the centre so clients can practise self-care.

A record amount raised at Carols by Candlelight 2019

A total of 700 people attended Launchpad’s sold-out annual carol service, Carols by Candlelight, at the Reading Minster on Thursday 5 December 2019 – and the event raised a record £10,800 for the homelessness prevention charity.

Now in its twelfth year, Carols by Candlelight – which was sponsored by MFG and Reading Chronicle – has become a Christmas highlight for hundreds of local people with many saying it marks the start of the festive season.

This years’ service was led by The Reverend Judith Sumner and the congregation enjoyed traditional Christmas carols, a Christmas message from The Reverend and bible readings given by trustee Manjula Phadnis; volunteer Emma Vallely; corporate supporter Bill Gornall-King; and Launchpad patron Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle.

The congregation were also treated to performances by local mezzo-soprano Harriet Kirk, Reading Bach Choir, Reading Blue Coat School Junior Choir, and Launchpad patron Danyl Johnson. The standout performance from the night was O Come, All Ye Faithful, arranged by Reading Blue Coat School Junior Choir’s Director of Music, Richard Meehan, which included stunning solo performances from three students and Danyl.

Our chair of trustees, Suzanne Stallard, closed the evening with a look back at the charity’s work over 2019 and touched on Launchpad’s plans to celebrate our 40th birthday in 2020 – before urging guests to give what they can at the end of the service so we can continue to support those in need in Reading.

Donations on the night, ticket sales, sponsorship and Gift Aid raised a total of £10,800 – which is £700 more than funds raised at Carols by Candlelight in 2018. Ian Caren, CEO of Launchpad, said:

“Carols by Candlelight is always such a special event for Launchpad and our supporters, and this year was no different. Once again, local people of all ages came together to enjoy a traditional Christmas service in the magical setting of the candlelit Reading Minster, all in aid of preventing homelessness and helping those in need in Reading.

“The fact that our community has raised such a fantastic amount of money to support our work in December and all year round is simply amazing. I’d like to thank every single person involved – from Reading Minster, the beautiful singers and those who gave a reading, to our volunteers helping on the night and everyone who bought a ticket.”

Check out our Facebook album to see all the photos from the night.

Learn more about how Launchpad supports those who are homeless or at risk of losing their home at Christmas.