Gordon Rural Action: The Huntly Advice Hub
In October 2021, a grant of £18,750 was awarded to Gordon Rural Action (GRA) to fund urgent roof repairs and survey work which were needed to safeguard its building, which houses joined-up services to those people most vulnerable in the community, such as those hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis. The award was raised to £23,315 when costs of repairs increased from initial estimates.
The Huntly Advice Hub building on Gordon Street, Huntly, is owned by GRA. It is home to free-of-charge, independent advice services offered by GRA; GRA’s charity shop ‘The Bargain Box’; a school uniform exchange; baby bank (providing baby equipment and essential supplies to families); the Bikery (providing low-cost preowned bikes and repairs/servicing); plus delivery partners including Barnardo’s and most recently Aberdeenshire North Food Bank (which also received support from the Clashindarroch Fund, to set up the provision of services to the Clashindarroch fund area).
GRA offers advice and support to clients on various issues, including benefits and Universal Credit applications, housing applications, employment issues, debt, consumer issues, community social care and accessing help with fuel costs, such as Warm Home discounts. IT equipment and support with digital access are provided on an appointment basis. GRA also collaborates with other support providers, signposting clients to those best placed to offer support and referring them to its uniform bank and baby bank where appropriate.
GRA also works with schools to provide education and advice on proactive debt avoidance and offers training to all ages in employability skills. It also provides opportunities to work and volunteer with GRA, for example, at The Bargain Box and the Bikery.
GRA’s building features a flat roof over the retail area. This was in poor condition and, in 2021, was unlikely to survive intact for another winter. Without urgent repairs, the future of the charity shop, which generates a significant proportion of GRA’s income, was at risk.
Repairing the roof was the most urgent task in a longer-term plan to improve the building to make it more energy efficient and fit for the future. The grant request to the Clashindarroch Fund included the costs of a professional building conditions survey which would inform future improvements, alongside an energy opportunities assessment carried out by Zero Waste Scotland.
The roof repairs were successfully carried out. There was a delay in completing the project and an increase in costs as GRA were advised as a result of the building survey to install more drainage on the roof than was in the initial specification. The problems with leaks could not be solved entirely by the roof repairs, and some repointing was also required to solve the issue.
Laura McNeil of GRA explained the importance of these repairs:
‘Completing these works will ensure our customers can safely shop in our charity shop, helping to improve our customer shopping experience, reduce landfill and offer services to our community. The funds from our Charity Shop go directly to supporting the running of the GRA Advice and Support Hub, accounting for 35% of our unrestricted revenue. This will ensure our services can continue for the foreseeable future…This year we have dealt with 1305 issues, helping 1137 people. This comes at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is impacting more families and individuals than ever before.’
A full structural survey was completed. This helped to identify and prioritise work required on the building. Immediate issues identified by the surveyor relating to pointing, painting, guttering and slate replacement have also been addressed. A maintenance strategy has been drawn up based on recommendations, and a three-year plan for a phased refurbishment is now in place, intending to ensure that the building is a safe and energy-efficient home for staff and volunteers delivering essential services to the community for many years to come.