We all go into charity shops hoping to find a hidden gem, but I never thought my latest discovery would be the shop itself and the woman who runs it.

I went into Meriden charity shop You Matter in York Way hoping to make some enquiries about another story.

But when I met the owner Andre Best, I quickly realised that a light needed shining on the work she has been doing.

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Andre, who lives in the Meriden, opened the shop in December 2021.

She had previously set up the shop Hope Charity in St Albans Road with a friend, but it had to close due to increasing rent prices.

But when the opportunity arose to open a charity shop in the Meriden, she took it.

The shop provides education and training support to help people learn employability skills, earn a sustainable income and become self sufficient.

She said: “I know the community and what they need, so I wanted to help and set this up.”

After she opened the shop, she realised an area was needed for people to gather, so she created a space with chairs and a sofa for people to sit and talk.

Watford Observer: You Matter has an industrial vibe to it. Picture: Kimberley HackettYou Matter has an industrial vibe to it. Picture: Kimberley Hackett

She said: “When I came here, I identified very quickly there was a lot of loneliness, especially after Covid.

“It’s not just with the elderly, it can be with people of all ages.

“I thought, ‘you know what, I’m going to create a hub space’. This is a place where people can come and sit down and chat with one another.”

The space led to Andre realising that people needed more than somewhere to talk.

She said: “I would hear the conversations and I noticed the elderly would say they find it hard to make phone calls and address certain things.

Watford Observer: The hub where people can sit and talk. Picture: Kimberley HackettThe hub where people can sit and talk. Picture: Kimberley Hackett

“You can find that with the older generation. They don’t know who to phone and what number to press when you first get through, or which department to go to. It’s confusing.

“One lady was getting all these letters and she came in a fluster, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, I keep getting all these letters.’

“I said, ‘calm down, bring them in tomorrow and I will read it over with you’.”

Andre used to work for what was then known as the Watford Community Housing Trust.

She told me in her role as a scheme manager, she was working with the elderly who were living independently.

Part of her role was to identify any areas where the elderly needed help, such as having adaptations to their home or helping them keep up to date with their medication.  

While I was interviewing Andre, she was putting her experience to good use.

She was on hold to Watford Community Housing to ensure an elderly woman had handrails put in her bathroom.

Andre explained: “Every Friday I deliver surplus food from Wenzel’s to the homeless and some families in this community.

“I went to Melanie’s (not her real name) house to deliver the bread and she showed me round her home.   

“I said, ‘hold on, you don’t have any grab rails in your bathroom. How are you managing?’

“She didn’t even realise.

“I said, ‘well have you not called up social services?’ She said no. And I asked her if she wanted me to do it. So I did.”

Watford Observer: Andre set up the hub so people would have somewhere to talk. Picture: Kimberley HackettAndre set up the hub so people would have somewhere to talk. Picture: Kimberley Hackett

But what’s the reason behind the name You Matter?

“I think it speaks for itself,” she said.

“Everybody in the community whether they are young, old, whatever ethnicity, everyone matters.”

And Andre is bringing the performing arts world into the community too.

She is running a project in October for children interested in theatre and dance who might not have access to lessons.

The week is also about helping children work in teams and build their confidence.

Watford Observer: You Matter is in York Way. Picture: Kimberley HackettYou Matter is in York Way. Picture: Kimberley Hackett

I didn’t stay for long because Andre had customers come in and people were donating clothes and furniture.

Before I left, I had a wander round and was struck with the decoration.

You Matter has a New York-loft style feel to it with vinyl records on the wall.

The exposed bricks and pipes give it an industrial vibe, with the donated clothes and furniture bringing colour into the room.

It’s not like your normal charity shop.

I’m more than glad I stopped off and carried out my unexpected interview, as I was able to meet one of Watford’s unsung heroes.

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