Four years after its launch, Dromore’s own award-winning charity, Via Wings, is making a real difference in tackling local hardship.
Born of a single, small idea, in 2009, the charity has been hailed as having since grown into a successful community support network and social enterprise, ceaselessly growing and evolving with the community of Dromore.
“It’s mission,” a spokesperson said, “has been to show God’s love in a loving, caring, practical and non-judgemental way.
In 2011 Via Wings won the Pride of Place award for its support of mental health and in 2012 the charity was nominated for the Queen’s Award.
The charity began as a small group of volunteers which now numbers more than 40, their activities overseen by a 12-strong voluntary board. It provides employment to six members of staff, all previously volunteers, and is supported by many others in the wider community.
As a visible presence, Via Wings runs a small social enterprise, consisting of a shabby chic shop called Hope & Soul - selling “up-cycled, handmade or pre-loved quality items”, some made by volunteers and service users, and, on the same premises, The Olive Branch coffee shop.
“From the beginning,” the spokesperson said, “Via Wings has been a self-funded charity and has always relied on faith that God would provide what was necessary. A prayer often heard in Via Wings is ‘Lord help us to continue to make this place what you know it needs to be.’”
To help fund its many projects - among them the creation of a sensory room for a local child with autism - the charity has run a wide range of fundraisers while also applying for small grants.
“Due to the increasing demands as a result of the credit crunch,” said the spokesperson, “the charity has had to look at other ways of increasing its income in order to finance the projects and work that it does. This led to the opening of Hope & Soul in June 2012. Every penny spent in both the Olive Branch and Hope & Soul is returned to the community of Dromore by providing jobs, purchasing materials for Dare to Care and all the other services Via Wings provides.”
Via Wings has successfully run projects with other local groups such as Dromore in Action and most recently has started a new initiative with PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm), which will work in partnership with Dromore Doctors Surgery to make counselling services within the local community more accessible.