Eastside Primetimers congratulates Rob Thomas, a longtime Eastside Primetimers member and founder and volunteer of Vennture in Herefordshire, who has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
This year the Birthday honours list celebrates the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the UK who have made a significant contribution to society. Rob was awarded an MBE for his outstanding service to the community in Herefordshire during the first-wave of the COVID pandemic. Rob established Vennture in 2012 based on the philanthropic work John Venn, a 19th Century Vicar in Hereford and his sister Emilia Venn who formed the Hereford City Mission. You can read more about Vennture and their work here.
Rob established Vennture in 2012 based on the philanthropic work John Venn, a 19th Century Vicar in Hereford and his sister Emilia Venn who formed the Hereford City Mission. He explains: “Our mission is very simply to Love People Better. We started with just £27 in the bank and a God-given desire to come alongside others and help them through meaningful relationships.”
The charity set up the Lean-on-Me service which is supported by qualified volunteers as part of its street pastors service in Hereford’s night time economy. They care and support people who have become distressed or injured on nights out or need help to get home safely. Vennture also runs a number of mentoring programmes – The family pastors and youth mentor schemes support 150 vulnerable families, young people and individuals struggling with issues including unemployment, homelessness and hunger.
Since the start of COVID in March, Vennture has taken a radically different approach to sustaining services for its vulnerable clients. Unlike many agencies and charities, it didn’t furlough staff and sought to work as the ‘fourth emergency service’ alongside statutory agencies. Rob led with his big idea ‘BRAVE’ – to Build Resilience Against Endemic Vulnerabilities. This meant that they were there to continue support despite lockdown restrictions. Along with the Chair of Adult Safeguarding, working collaboratively with The Police, local NHS, Council and Emergency planners, Vennture formed a new response tier locally continuing to offer support when others were unable to meet need. Volunteers were recruited safely, the homeless were fed and sheltered, the lonely were nurtured and cared for and the hungry were clothed and fed at a time when they needed it most.
The charity equips all its volunteers to help vulnerable people. The focus is always on significant, substantive, sustainable programmes that make a tangible difference for people facing significant challenges. Providing extensive training to all its volunteers, based on Christian foundations and Rob’s faith and unrelenting determination to make a difference, he has built an army of Christian and many other volunteers across the county. Many come from local churches, others just share their values, and come alongside people; travelling with them through thick and thin whatever happens despite COVID.
Outside Vennture, Rob has a long history of working with the marginalised and has been making a difference to the lives of people in Herefordshire for over 30 years.
Rob’s single-minded determination, energy and focus has been a huge asset to the charity, ensuring Vennture is at the heart of the county’s response to homelessness, managing the night time economy and supporting vulnerable groups. The Vennture team are very proud that his hard work has been recognised with this very special honour.
Rob said: “To even be nominated for the Birthday Honours list is a wonderful compliment but when I heard I’d actually been awarded an MBE it came as an enormous surprise. I am honoured to be recognised alongside others on this year’s list. I’m especially grateful to all the volunteers at Vennture, this is recognition for them.”