Spotlight on St Luke’s Community Centre

Published on Feb 17, 2021

Each month, we catch up one of the fantastic businesses or organisations that make the Old Street District the vibrant and exciting place that we all know and love. This month, we’re chatting to Keren Wiltshire, Director of Services at St Luke’s Community Centre.

Hi Keren, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a little about what you do at St Luke’s?

I lead on the development, fundraising and delivery of community services, projects and events carried out in St Luke’s Community Centre and the neighbourhood with a focus on meeting local needs and finding new ways to engage with local people.

So what exactly does St Luke’s do?

Our charitable aim is to improve the conditions of life for the people living in our area of benefit. We know that providing a Community Centre and services in the area helps break down barriers and contributes towards our area being welcoming, safe, healthy, and alive with activity

Who comes to St Luke’s?

We’re fortunate to be able to provide a wide range of services and support, which has created a diverse range of people that engage with us throughout the local community. Whether people live here, learn here, work here, play here or are simply visiting the area, St Luke’s welcomes everybody. In 2019 we welcomed almost 70,000 visits to the Community Centre – from new-born babies to octogenarians!

How did it all start?

St Luke’s Parochial Trust is an amalgamation of smaller trusts, the earliest of which date back to the sixteenth century. Many years ago, the area of St Luke’s was densely populated with extremely high levels of disease and poverty. In those days people often left legacies in their wills to the poor of the parish. For example, gifts of money or property were bequeathed to provide income to give bread, clothing or coals to widows, school children and orphans, or operate almshouses. Over the centuries, these gifts were accumulated into large parish (or parochial) trusts. Some of these ancient charities exist to this day, and St Luke’s is one. St Luke’s Community Centre was officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 1982.

How do you think the pandemic (and the consequent lockdown) has affected the community you serve?

The pandemic and consequent lockdowns have affected the community in many ways – both good and bad. It’s sad to see how lonely many older residents have become and how fearful they are about the future, families have been seriously impacted economically, children and young people struggling without their schools or friends and people looking for work are frustrated by the lack of opportunities.

However, the one good thing to come from the pandemic is the true feeling of community as a result of the generosity and kindness of local people. We have been consistently overwhelmed with offers of help from residents who donate their time as volunteers and donate food, nappies and money to the Food Hub. Our Christmas Appeal resulted in almost 400 presents being donated to local children and pensioners!

How did you operate prior to the pandemic, and what has had to change as a result of the current situation?

Prior to the pandemic, St Luke’s delivered an extensive programme of community support including care for older people, a daily lunch club, children’s after school and holiday activities, employment support, volunteer opportunities, a cookery school, an online centre, community classes and public events, gardening and food growing, health and wellbeing activities, advice services and business enterprise opportunities.

Since the lockdown started in March 2020 we have had to stop delivering lots of our services, furloughed many of our staff and prioritised our limited support to residents most in need. In response to local needs, our small team immediately set up a Food Hub which has already distributed 70 tonnes of donated goods to those living in food poverty, we developed a programme of wellbeing/befriending phone service offering friendship to those who are isolated or anxious, we have adapted our Job Club to an online service ensuring job seekers are still supported in their search for employment and we have delivered lunches to the homes of shielding pensioners every day – including Christmas Day!

Have there been any new ways of working that you think will stay in place in future?

Like many organisations, we have become more creative in the way we work and, despite keeping the Community Centre open to deliver essential services, many staff have benefitted from the flexibility of being able to work from home. Remote working is likely to stay in place in future but I know our team can’t wait to all be together again and think our first ‘in-person’ staff meeting is likely to take some time!

How can a local resident or employee contribute to the amazing work that St Luke’s does?

There are so many ways to get involved at St Luke’s!

Local residents can sign up to become volunteers supporting our huge programme of community activities such as befriending older residents, distributing donated food or helping to organise our public events. Volunteering is such a great way to gain skills, make new friends, feel part of your community and, importantly, have fun.

Businesses can also register as partners with our Business Engagement Team and contribute to our community provision. Our large team of corporate volunteers help deliver key services such as job club and business enterprise, they get involved in our popular ‘team challenge’ days, offer pro-bono help and support all our fundraising efforts.

How has OSDP worked with you?

We’ve loved working with the OSDP and have benefitted hugely from the platform that the OSDP has given us to showcase the work we do in supporting our community to the business community. Thanks to the exposure that the OSDP has given us, the local business community now has the opportunity to know what goes on at the centre and how their business and stakeholders can get involved.

How would you describe the Old Street community?

The Old Street community is a unique combination of old and new housing estates that are tucked behind large and small businesses bordering Hackney and the City of London. There is a strong sense of community that is supported and enhanced by the diverse community groups, services and businesses.

Please describe Old Street and the surrounding area in 3 words.

Changing, urban, and busy.

If you would like to get involved with St Luke’s Community Centre, please contact Colleen Ettridge via email