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Exeter Community Initiatives celebrates 30th anniversary!

Local charity, Exeter Community Initiatives (ECI), is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this summer!

Established in 1993, ECI has supported more than 50,000 people in Exeter and across Devon over the last three decades.

Initially set up by local churches to help homeless people in Exeter, ECI was originally known as the Palace Gate Project.  It soon became an umbrella charity creating more than 25 new community projects, several of which still operate as independent charities today, including St Sidwell’s Centre, St Petrock’s and Homemaker South West Ltd.

Thirty years on, Exeter Community Initiatives aims to give people the right support at the start of a problem to help them keep their lives on track and stop them from getting to the point of crisis.  The charity works with individuals, families and communities in a number of ways to empower them to take control of their lives, develop strategies to own and manage their choices and thrive within the life they want to lead.

Its projects focus on four key areas – Skills and Innovation, Family Resource, Community Action and Housing and Tenancy Sustainment – and include:

•        Bike Bank –provides meaningful activity and back-to-work skills through learning bike mechanics and repair, supporting positive mental health and reducing social isolation.

•        Community Builders – working as part of the Wellbeing Exeter project, 13 Community Builders work in Exeter and Cranbrook to create strong, inclusive neighbourhoods and empower communities to develop skills and build relationships.

•        Exeter Connect – facilitates and develops community groups, providing bespoke, professional support, events and networking opportunities.

•        Jelly – children’s charity shop selling preloved, high-quality items at affordable prices.

•        Transitions – provides workshops on the practical and emotional challenges people encounter on a daily basis such as managing anxiety, budgeting and decluttering.

•        Remade – reduces social isolation by providing access to creative activity, learning craft skills and promoting positive mental health.

•        Family Resource – offers a range of person-centred, family-focussed services, including therapeutic intervention, play therapy and mentoring.

Katie Holland, Exeter Community Initiatives’ Chief Executive, said: “Having been appointed in November 2022, I am honoured to be a part of one of Exeter’s longest running charities.   I would like to thank everyone who has supported ECI over the last thirty years. From funders, partners, volunteers, trustees, staff and local businesses – so many people have given their time, money or resources to help us support adults, families and communities in Exeter and across Devon when it matters most. 

“People are living through some very tough times at the moment due to the fallout from Covid coupled with the cost-of-living crisis.  As a result, ECI has seen an increased demand for our services and we are working harder than ever to support people during these unprecedented times.”

Carole Pilley, Exeter Community Initiatives’ Deputy CEO and Skills and Innovation Manager, has worked at the charity for 18 years. 

She said: “The charity was founded with heart and compassion to work with people; to take practical actions to address the challenges people face and to embrace the opportunities for people within Exeter.  The organisation’s success has been down to the values, creativity and adaptability it has demonstrated and the many good-hearted people who have been involved in the journey so far.”

Cllr Martin Pearce, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Communities and Homelessness Prevention, said: “ECI have made a tremendous contribution to, and helped shape our city over the last 30 years. Not only have they been a key strategic partner for the Council, the work ECI have carried out has been trailblazing across the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprises (VCSE) sector and is a model of delivery that others should aspire to. For the future of our city I hope that they are here for another 30 years!”

Tim Goodwin, Chair of ECI’s Trustees, said: “Today ECI is a very different organisation to when I joined 10 years ago.  When we were founded 30 years ago to address unmet challenges, no one would have foreseen how the needs of Exeter and our community would shift.  Over time, ECI has evolved and adapted to meet those challenges.  I have no doubt ECI will continue to change to meet our ongoing needs, while remaining true to our values and mission:  to promote empowerment and allow people to thrive in happy, strong and diverse families and communities.”

The charity has planned a number of events across the year to mark its anniversary including a thank you celebration in the Autumn for staff, volunteers and the local community.