MORE than 300 community-run shops are being encouraged to enter the first awards for the sector.
There are some 303 community shops in the UK – many run by volunteers in rural areas where the last village store was threatened with closure or forced to shut.
Now the Plunkett Foundation has embarked on a search for the best examples of community action by launching the first ever Community Shop Awards.
Sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association, the awards are designed to recognise and reward community shops for achieving excellence.
Entrants will be judged by specialists from supporters like Co-operative Enterprise Hub, Triodos Bank and CAN Invest and will be in with a chance of winning £500.
Winners will also receive high profile exposure as part of the Plunkett Foundation's Community Shops Fortnight campaign in June.
Community shops regularly featuring in mainstream awards such as the BBC Food & Farming Awards and Countryside Alliance Awards.
But some of their qualities – their co-operative ethos, community engagement and approach to overcoming problems they face together – are not always recognised.
Plunkett chief executive Peter Couchman said: "These communities have rallied to save their shop from closure, reopening it under community ownership.
"They have built a committed team to engage with everyone within their community to keep their shop up and running, delivering a vital service, day in, day out."
As well as celebrating success, Mr Couchman said the awards would raise awareness of the potential of co-operation, hopefully inspiring more communities into action.
For entry details, visit http://www.communityshops.coop/awards.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.