I’m Stephen, a Co-op Engagement Advisor (CEA) covering the most northerly part of the British Isles. Part of our role is to support Member Pioneers and local causes, which allows me to see firsthand the difference our members’ 1% makes to local causes in our most remote communities.

That’s why I always encourage everyone I meet to go online and choose the local cause that matters most to them.

Recently I travelled to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to visit some local causes who were part of our very first round of funding.

The Stornoway MacAulay Road food store is among the largest of our Co-ops in the UK and serves the combined wider populations of Lewis & Harris as well as the local residents of the town.

Catch 23

My first visit was to Catch 23 (managed by Del Gunn), part of an initiative by the Western Isles Association for Mental Health. Together with the help of eager volunteers and session workers the Catch 23 drop-in centre had over 5,500 visits last year and supported over 200 individuals.

Based in a converted town house, the project offers a safe space to visit as well as creative writing classes, arts classes and gardening sessions. The kettle is always on and there’s always some hot food available at no cost to service users.

Del couldn’t be more grateful to Co-op members for the huge help and support shown towards the project. He said:

“We were astounded by the help we’ve received from the Local Community Fund. It’s helped us put on art sessions and provide over 4,500 healthy meals, as well as pay the rent. I’d like to thank Co-op members and all the Co-op colleagues in Stornoway and beyond for the incredible support and encouragement they’ve shown towards us.”

Leanne Fund

Second stop was to meet Chrisetta Mitchell at the Leanne Fund, which provides special treats/experiences and a range of support services to young people suffering from Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and their families in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland.

“Moving away to college/university or setting up home for the first time can be really exciting but it can also be extremely stressful for someone with Cystic Fibrosis,” explained Chrisetta. “The money from the Local Community Fund has meant we’ve been able to buy new fridges for storing medicines and food, bedding, travel costs and funding for mentor/befriending training. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the Co-op.”

What an inspirational day.

Remember, if you know a cause that could benefit from our Local Community Fund there’s still time for them to apply.

Stephen Kelly 
Co-op Engagement Advisor

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Great stuff as always Stephen, but that hat has got to go, it looks like it would have been running around in the woods behind you before you stuck it on your head.

    • Hi Tom – Thanks for raising this issue. I can assure everyone concerned that the hat is made from 100% synthetic materials. It was a very cold day that day.

  2. I am so proud of Coop’s continued business presence and associated community support in these, the remotest areas of the UK.Just think of the logistics in store deliveries,management, and now oversight of community fund and member pioneers – incredible.
    Thanks for going the extra mile or 100, Stephen [including nautical ones lol, and the odd ferry journey or two] to bring us evidence that # beingcoop means embracing geographic diversity and its challenges- and that us mainlanders can learn from remote communities too -the activities you describe are inspirational.

    • Thanks Barbara,
      Thanks to Co-op Membership and the 1%, Co‑op Members have already helped raise in excess of an amazing £20 million for local causes. That means we’ve been able to help fund thousands of local projects that benefit communities right across across every part of the UK – including our most remote communities.

      Local causes, helping to bring people together and make a difference, can currently now apply to
      our next round of funding. More details are available at .

  3. I was on holiday on Lewis and Harris last summer, and was struck not only by the size of the Co-op, but also that outside of Stornoway it gets really remote and there’s very little in terms of towns even though the islands themselves are very big. It just brought home to me the service we provide to some of the most remote places and the lifeline we provide to these communities that may be small in terms of number of people but are geographically huge.

  4. Stephen, thank you for sharing this. I don’t think we will ever tire of hearing the difference that our Members are making in local communities through their 1%.

    • Thank you Rebecca
      I couldn’t agree more.
      Every cause in every local community that my CEA colleagues and I have visited recently
      has expressed an overwhelming gratitude for the difference that Co-op Members have made
      through their 1% and our Local Community Fund.
      Members can choose which cause they’d like to allocate their 1% towards at

  5. Great write up on your adventures Stephen. Fab hearing how our 1% is supporting people in our communities.

  6. Fantastic Stephen!

  7. Pretty amazing, what a wonderful thing to be supporting these incredible organisations!

  8. Great stories Stephen, its easy to forget the difference we can make locally by shopping own brand. Lovely to hear about the difference the 1% is making to these communities.

    • Thanks Tessa – I think that we can all agree that the quality of Co-op brand is second to none – and the fact that with each purchase we’re helping make a real difference in local communities – makes shopping Co-op such an easy and convenient choice. Lets try and make sure that as many people as possible are aware.

  9. Great story and also to hear how the community is benefitting from the Local Community Fund. Colleagues in the area raised so much for the Charity Partnership with the British Red Cross, it’s great to see the community projects locally benefitting from the loyalty of our members as well. I am making it my mission to visit Stornoway this year 😀

    • Thanks – and I have to agree with you Hazel. Our colleagues in the Outer Hebrides are as good as it gets anywhere and are exceptionally dedicated to helping their communities. It is a great place to visit. Good luck with your visit if you make it this year.

  10. Great work Stephen… loved hearing about your adventures!!

    • Thanks Giles
      I’m sure that the inspiration that I received as a result of visiting these causes and seeing & hearing at first hand the difference that our members 1% is making – will have been shared by all colleagues in the Co-op Engagement Team and by other colleagues who are working with our local communities across the UK on an ongoing basis to help make a difference.

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