News from February 2024

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Did you know that we have a monthly newsletter where we share news, updates and special content?

Here’s a snippet from February’s newsletter, featuring interviews from local artists and previous Renewal Living beneficiaries.

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A Word from our CEO, Wesley Downs:

“Welcome to our 2nd newsletter of 2024 for February and yes I know, where did that time go?

What a great subject for February LOVE! As the CEO of Renewal North West, it always thrills me to see love in action in the charity. Love between staff and volunteers looking out for each other, praying for each other and just caring for each other. Wow, this is a real joy to see in action. I also am really encouraged to see love being shown to our customers which is quite unique in the world of retail. I recently observed one of our valued customers being greeted by a warm hug by a staff member who had built up a relationship with this customer to that extent. I’m sure that meant a lot to the customer and staff member alike. Just one example of love in action on the ground at Renewal. Praise God for that!

The best part about love for me is this: the Bible tells me For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting LIFE! That God loves me enough to send His one and only Son to die as my substitute, to deal with the problem of my sin or wrongdoings just blows me away!

God loves me, Jesus died for me so I can have peace with God through trusting him for today and eternity. 

I hope you enjoy our newsletter. Please tell your friends about us and support if you can. Thank you! 

Interviewing artist Elizabeth Nicholls

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This month, we sat down with Stockport local artist, Elizabeth Nicholls, founder of the Stockport Sketchbook Swap. She’s passionate about art as a well-being tool, and being sustainable as an artist. 

Elizabeth is a fine arts graduate from Leeds University and volunteers at Arts Recovery (ARC), based at the Hat Works. ARC offers sessions for young people with mental health problems, and is the highlight of Elizabeth’s week! She has always wanted to offer art projects to the community and is commencing a Masters in Art Therapy.

Stockport is very important to Elizabeth and she’s happy to see it beginning to be developed. She wants others to see how beautiful the town is, and part of those efforts have culminated in the Stockport Sketchbook Project, to create a concise book of Stockport talent. 

The project began in September 2023 as a collaboration between Stockport creatives. Each page is filled with a different artist’s art and will be exhibited at ARC later in the year. 

Sustainability is very important to Elizabeth and she frames her art using preloved frames, one of which she bought from Renewal North West!

Elizabeth loves popping into the shop and finding sewing materials and jewellery for her workshops. She has a workshop coming up on upcycling secondhand tote bags, and all the materials have been sourced from Renewal!
Elizabeth is a wonderful artist with a huge heart for Stockport’s teenagers and wants to put on more projects for them. 

If you would like to see Elizabeth’s art, the Stockport Sketchbook Project, or support her workshops, you can find her on Instagram at @en.arts and @stockport.sketchbook.swap
Interviewing Renewal Living Beneficiaries, Scott and Abed

We interviewed two previous beneficiaries of the Renewal Living Project, who were unlikely flatmates who became friends. 
Meet Scott (pictured left) and Abed (pictured right).

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Q: How long have you been involved with Renewal and how did you find out about it?

Scott: I’ve been involved since November 2020 when I started coming to the shop on day release from prison. I first met Wesley (Renewal’s CEO) in 2018, when the charity Christian Prison Resources (CPR) introduced us.

Abed: I started volunteering in May 2019 after Wesley spoke at the church I attended.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Scott: I came from a pretty rough background:  my dad was in prison doing a large sentence when my mum was pregnant with me, so crime impacted me from the moment I was born. I got involved with drugs and crime and had a gang-land lifestyle, which landed me in prison, with bigger and bigger sentences. I eventually got a 17-year sentence, and during this time found Jesus in prison. This really changed my thinking and attitudes.

Abed: In 2018 I was retaking a university course after filing for extenuating circumstances. I was removed from the course because I wasn’t attending. I was living a sinful life of illicit activities, which caused broken relationships and ruined my studies. I felt at the end of my rope, so reached out to family and friends in Manchester and eventually moved back here and started attending the church I grew up in. I started to feel guilty about the life I had been living and how it was contrary to what God wanted, so I repented, and by His grace, received forgiveness 

Q: How long have you two lived together?

Scott: We’ve lived together for 2 years! But now Abed has moved out, so it’s just me on my own.

Abed: I was living in another house that Renewal owns when the opportunity to move in with Scott arose. There was a new flat and moving in would support Scott in his transition. It seemed like the right thing to do, so I went for it. 

Q: Do you think that you have similarities or are you different?

Scott: Our similarities are that we both believe in God and like Christian music. Our big difference is that we have a 24-year age gap, so I could be Abed’s dad! I had to keep reminding myself of our generational differences, but sometimes the differences were funny. For example, we were watching a movie and there was a Ford Orion in the background. I pointed it out to Abed and he had no idea what it was…it was a reminder that I’m getting old, haha. 

Abed: Like Scott said, we grew up in different eras and also different cultures. Despite our differences, it’s God who binds us together. 

Q: What does “loving your neighbour” mean to you?

Scott: Respecting each other and accepting that everyone has their own lives. I thank the Lord that in the 2 years, me and Abed lived together, not once did we have a cross word or raise our voices at each other. God gave us the maturity to get us through potential conflict, and we’ve been able to open up to each other and share things that we wouldn’t have expected. Respecting each other made discussions easier, because you know it’s not going to end up in an argument. 

Abed: You have to first define ‘love’ and God’s word does it for us: love doesn’t necessarily mean always going along with everything but love is, y’know, a good thing! Affection and compassion are involved because the Bible says that love doesn’t envy or boast, and that’s challenging! When you look at yourself in that light you recognise that you fall short, so Scott and I kept it practical by doing things like leaving food in the fridge for the other person. Something like that can make someone’s day! 

Q: Based on your experience living with each other, how can you advise our readers to love their neighbours?

Scott: If you’ve got a problem with the people you’re living with, sit down and have a chat, hear each other out. It’s the first step: don’t let things bottle up. Respect each other and be non-judgemental – remember that Christ loved us before we could love anybody.

Abed: God is our closest neighbour and to love others well, we have to first love Him. I’d advise anyone to become a Christian and actually know God’s love so that you can share it with others. The Bible says that we love because He first loved us. You want to be in it for the long term: recognise that you fall short, that your neighbour also falls short and that there’s going to be disagreements. But you want to bear with them and be motivated by love in the way you treat them.

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