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Rutland Refill zero-waste shop team sets out ambitions to become a community hub in Oakham

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An enterprise which started out as an eco-shop is quickly becoming a key part of the community.

Rutland Refill has only been open for nine weeks, but the team are already making a name for themselves within the county.

Owner Jenni Penfold had a vision to create a safe place for people to relax, make friends, follow their passions and make a difference, alongside her desire to reduce plastic waste.

Some of the Rutland Refill team
Some of the Rutland Refill team

With an eco shop, café and space to sell locally-produced goods under one roof, Rutland Refill is already fulfilling those goals.

General manager Michelle Inwood said: “We started as a zero-waste community shop but want to be a community hub where we can offer a caring and safe environment to help people when we can.

“Jenni has always had a dream to set up a zero-waste shop, and when these premises became available it was the perfect opportunity. She also wanted to give opportunities in the community to people with special educational needs.”

Gianno is part of the team
Gianno is part of the team

Set in the former chip shop on Westgate in Oakham, the Rutland Refill premises comprises a series of quirky little rooms spread across three floors.

With the eco shop downstairs and a cosy café on the first floor, the building links directly to Jenni’s hair salon next door.

The next step will be to convert the third floor rooms.

The team hopes to create an open plan kitchen to offer workshops in life skills, a sensory room and a meeting space for community groups.

Volunteer Amber helping out in the shop
Volunteer Amber helping out in the shop

The third floor will be a particularly important space for the volunteers with additional needs.

The special educational needs manager hopes to run workshops to help them further develop their skills.

Michelle said: “They have been totally amazing and we’re really lucky that they give us their time. They are learning new skills and building in confidence all the time.”

Other future plans include the launch of an allotment in the spring and a knitting club early next year.

Lorraine Hudson, Michelle Inwood and Alison Smith behind the till.
Lorraine Hudson, Michelle Inwood and Alison Smith behind the till.

This week the team also launched a weekly drop-in session.

Every Thursday from 2.30pm until 4pm there will be a get-together in the café for people to enjoy a free drink and meet new people in a bid to combat loneliness within the community.

Michelle added: “In the new year we will also be offering a volunteer-based befriending service where we can take the fun and companionship to people in their homes.

“To us it’s important that those confined to their homes continue to be included in all the community activities we offer.”

Rutland Refill is a community interest company. With only three paid managers, it relies on the support of its 14 volunteers. All profits are ploughed back into its activities.

To support the project, donations can be made online at: uk.gofundme.com/f/rutland-refill

Anyone keen to help out can also drop into the café during opening hours or call 01572 897277.

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