Sue Cooper, of Knowle Village, Hampshire, is making the trip up to Manchester for the prestigious Housing Heroes awards ceremony, after being nominated for Tenant Innovator of the Year. The awards are jointly organised by leading housing magazine, Inside Housing, and the Chartered Institute of Housing, to recognise and celebrate the unsung heroes. Earlier this year Sue was also nominated for the TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) ‘Tenant of the Year’ award.
Sue has been nominated as a result of her remarkable community contribution and out of the box thinking. In December 2016 Sue was learning more about the amount of waste food and products that supermarkets throw away and was inspired to make better use of them. By the next month she had been given a room at the local community centre where she could redistribute all the ‘waste’ food. Sue named her idea ‘The Project’.
The Project went on to grow and grow until the regular weekly meet became a serious feature on the community’s calendar. “All sorts of people come every week for the social side as well,” Sue says. “We can offer free tea and coffee thanks to Radian’s sponsorship, and so many friendships and relationships have grown out of it.” Sue now operates it as a swap shop, where people can donate items, money or skills for other things.
The Project has grown to such an extent that it has now outgrown the storage facility provided in the community centre and, thanks to a generous donation from a local man, has acquired a permanent container in the grounds. Not content with stopping there, Sue is building a community garden around the container where people can come to get their hands dirty growing fresh fruit and veg, or just chill out in the sunshine.
Sue has also started up a side project called Car Care with a local mechanic where, for just £5, someone will pick up your car, give it a basic inspection, write up a list of advisories, and then return it to you. “I’m an enabler,” Sue says. “If someone has a skill they can share, I want to help them do it. I could never have dreamed it would grow this big when I first thought it up in my living room 16 months ago.”