Charity partnership makes a real difference in Portsmouth

A charity initiative that enables café customers to buy a drink or a snack for someone affected by homelessness has seen more than 1,400 vouchers bought since July.

The Pay It Forward scheme was launched last year by the Society of St James (SSJ) with the help of Southern Co-op who had nominated the organisation to be its head office charity partner 2019/20.

Pay It Forward was launched at Café in the Park, in Portsmouth’s Victoria Park, in July and has already had more than 1,430 vouchers bought which are given to someone facing multiple disadvantages such as homelessness, poverty and/or substance misuse.

The scheme has been such a success alongside other partnership work with Southern Co-op that co-operative colleagues have extended the partnership for another year.

Jessica Hughes​, Community Investment Manager at Southern Co-op, said: “When we set out to find our charity partner in 2019, our aim was to work with a charity about more than just money, and our partnership with SSJ has delivered just that.

“Colleagues are already committed to running local 10ks, 100 mile bike rides, volunteer days and skills shares to name a few. We also have future commitments to their sports programme, their women’s project and are looking to understand more from their expertise through our Protecting Our People programme.

“We are excited to see how we can truly deliver a long term impact for those who are homeless, who have experienced trauma and/or found themselves in difficult circumstances perhaps trapped in a cycle of offending behaviour and drug or alcohol misuse.”

With a history in Portsmouth going back nearly 150 years, Southern Co-op’s core purpose is working together for the benefit of its communities. This ethos has been echoed throughout the partnership with SSJ.

Its head office colleagues include specialists in property management, human resources, retail buying and communications. They have each been able to work with SSJ to share their expertise – whether with the day-to-day business as usual or the launch of special projects.

But the partnership has been a two-way relationship as SSJ has also helped Southern Co-op with its own work to tackle drug-related crime. Colleagues across Southern Co-op have met with ex-offenders who have shared their own experiences of crime which has built personal connections with service users and improved their understanding of the issues and reasons behind criminal behaviour.

Dennis Jones, Communications Officer at SSJ, said: “We are delighted that Southern Co-op has decided to extend our partnership for another year.  I think the scope and depth of possibilities for us to improve lives for vulnerable people together has taken everyone by surprise – there is so much more to explore.

“Their colleagues have taken the charity to heart and are always there at the end of the phone to offer support. They have helped our charity grow, staff members learn new skills and more importantly, helped SSJ provide a positive future to so many vulnerable people.  We can’t wait to get stuck into the innovative projects lined up for this next year!”

To find out more about Southern Co-op’s commitment to making a difference, visit


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