The project has been in existence since 1993, when a group of concerned volunteers in Hulme (an area of inner city Manchester that had suffered years of unprecedented decline) who were determined to do something about some of the many local needs, set up an independent organisation in a spare room at the Wesley Church Hall on Royce road, Hulme. The idea had been sparked by the Methodist-run Open Door café and advice centre in Moss Side, which had run a clothes bank. This had started getting donations of furniture which soon overwhelmed its already over-used shop unit, and a separate, independent furniture project was born.
It quickly snowballed to an independent organisation with its own management committee, staff, volunteers, vans, and the rent-free use of most of the Wesley Church complex of buildings, which was transformed into a furniture shop, store, office and community café.
The Wesley, as it became affectionately known, set up its referral process so that those in most need could receive a ‘homestarter' package. The project was also able to train some of its volunteers or assist them into study; volunteers gained driving licences, CITB qualifications in electrical fitting, CORGI registration in gas fitting, and various NVQs, from catering to furniture restoration and childcare. The project ran a food co-op, Credit Union collection, recycling points; from one seed many more ideas and projects grew.
WCF won a number of awards for its innovative work, including Barclay's Community Development Foundation Award in 1995 and the British Urban Regeneration Association Award in 1996.
By 1997 the regeneration process of demolition and new-build in Hulme was in full swing, and the project had to find new premises. A temporary home was found at the PSV Russell Club, just along Royce Road, formerly The Factory - the precursor to Factory Records and the Hacienda club.
Over the Christmas and New Year period of 2001 the Wesley moved to 56-58 Lloyd Street South, Fallowfield (near to Manchester City's old Maine Road ground), which was a major upheaval in more ways than one: relocation incurred considerable costs, the project closed to the public for three weeks and then had to generate business anew; client numbers took several months to reach anything like previous levels.
Throughout 2001, work on developing WCF progressed: the re-invigorated management committee helped steer the project back to health and on 28th September it was granted charitable status.
By the start of 2002 the Wesley was very busy again: clients and donations were going through the ceiling - to the extent that the problem now was that WCF capacity was struggling to accommodate the demand from the community.
Subsequent years have seen the development of a Capacity Building Programme aimed at increasing staff [paid & unpaid] numbers, the vehicle fleet, and building retail & storage space.
2004 saw the start of 3 years CRED/lottery funding (which gave us 3 staff), we built up vehicle & volunteer numbers, and in 2006 we also worked a NRF/ERDF-funded programme which gives us 4 more staff, a truck, and warehouse rent for 10 months - largely to facilitate our kerbside Reuse Collections pilot, which was in partnership with Manchester City Council & other voluntary sector reuse/recycling projects.
In 2007 we began a 3-year Reaching Communities programme (Big Lottery) which focused on working with volunteers. Our team grew to over 30, our van fleet to 5 vehicles, and by May 2008 we had ditched our relatively unproductive and expensive warehouse space and opened our second sizeable shop/workshop building at St Wilfrid’s Hall. This marked not only a return to financial stability (by reducing costs and increasing sales), but a return to our ‘birthplace’ in Hulme.
Wesley successfully completed the Reaching Communities programme and engaged with the Future Jobs Fund in 2010, starting the new decade stronger and more determined to take the charity forward.