Minister pays a flying visit to Dromore charity

Outside the Hope & Soul shop operated by Dromore charity Via Wings are (from right)Councillor Paul Rankin, Brenda Hale MLA, Gail Redmond (charity founder). In the centre of the photo, DSD Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA. To the extreme left, Carla Steele, 'The Olive Branch' Manager. Also including charity staff members and volunteers.
Outside the Hope & Soul shop operated by Dromore charity Via Wings are (from right)Councillor Paul Rankin, Brenda Hale MLA, Gail Redmond (charity founder). In the centre of the photo, DSD Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA. To the extreme left, Carla Steele, 'The Olive Branch' Manager. Also including charity staff members and volunteers.

Stormont minister Mervyn Storey has applauded Dromore’s ‘Via Wings’ after paying a flying visit to the local charity.

During an hour-long stop in Dromore, at the invitation of Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale, the Social Development Minister commended Via Wings for its good work and encouraged all involved to continue striving hard to make a difference in their community.

The minister’s visit came after local woman, and Via Wings founder, Gail Redmond, spoke at Stormont about the charity’s work and the need for ongoing government support to get people back into employment. Mr Storey, Mrs Hale and Dromore Councillor Paul Rankin toured the charity’s Market Square premises, home to the Hope & Soul shop and Olive Branch cafe, where they met staff, volunteers and board members from the charity.

Hope & Soul assistant manager Donna Harrison explained how the social enterprise worked and introduced the minister to local women who make children’s clothes and upcycled furniture to sell in the charity shop, so allowing the women to run a small business without the additional cost of buying or renting a site of their own.

In The Olive Branch, manager, Carla Steele, explained how funding had enabled the charity to buy equipment, such as an iPad, to help with the day-to-day running of the business.

The coffee shop, which has no till and allows customers to pay using an ‘honesty pot’, is used to teach local girls Barista skills, customer service and money handling.

Gail Redmond spoke briefly during the visit and there was an oppostunity for the minister to ask questions and chat to customers.

Ms Redmond thanked the minister, thanked Mrs Hale and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson for their continued support and Mrs Hale’s Dromore office staff for helping organise Mr Storey’s visit.

Said Mrs Hale: “I was delighted that the minister took the time to come and see first-hand the good work being undertaken by Via Wings.

“I would again commend Gail and her team and assure them of the continued support of both Jeffrey Donaldson and myself.”