Our history

What we’ve achieved so far

CREST is fifty one years old in 2022. From its earliest days, it has embraced the need to challenge injustices and participate in creating a better society.

We have developed many services for the community over more than five decades, each with its own story.

Look at what is being offered today by checking the relevant sections of the website.


  • In 1971, the Walthamstow Council of Churches held a meeting in Peterhouse – the speaker was the Chief Medical Officer for Waltham Forest. He talked of developments over the previous 20 years since the creation of the welfare state and the potential for faith communities and volunteers to support the community in the future.
  • Out of this meeting was born the idea of Christian Renewal for Education and Social Tasks – CREST Waltham Forest.
  • CREST started with just one worker and, in the early days worked in the areas of homelessness and support for older people experiencing disabilities.
  • Alan Horne (manager to February 2022) joined in 1988. At that stage CREST had five staff members and an office base in Truro Road Community Centre. It had expanded its’ work supporting people with disabilities, had a developed programme of activities with school age children and undertook racism awareness training within faith communities.

Harmony Hall

  • In 1999 CREST took on the management of Truro Road Community Centre, rebranded it as Harmony Hall, significantly increased its community usage, gave it a profile within a generic community centre as a place of particular welcome for people experiencing mental health problems and eventually attracted funding for major capital improvements to the building.
  • In September 2017, CREST was approached by the landlord of Harmony Hall, Livability, and was told that they needed to sell the building.
  • CREST’s current tenancy with Livability has been on a rolling programme of short-term six-month leases.

Mental Health

Harmony Health Hub, Time to Change, Conscious Care Communities, Buddying and Befriending

  • Developments took place from 1995 alongside staff at Claybury psychiatric hospital and CREST set up, and ran, the Waltham Forest Mental Health Befriending Service.
  • This ran until 2007 and on the basis of this work CREST was commissioned to set up a mental health social inclusion service, Evolve. This ran to 2013 and was very much the precursor of today’s social prescribing model.
  • In addition CREST developed; thinkarts!, (a mental health arts project, )Time to Change, (a mental health anti-stigma campaign,) and the Waltham Forest Conscious Care Community, (a destination service for social prescribers.)
    CREST had also been fortunate to be commissioned, in partnership with WF Community Hub, to establish and develop a Buddying and Befriending Service in the borough from 2020 over the next three years.
  • CREST was grateful to Chris O’Sullivan, the T2C champions and WFCCC activity and group leaders. WF Commissioners were noted for supporting and having faith in the mental health support work delivered by CREST

Disability and Dementia

Day Service

  • The roots of this CREST service went back to the early days of CREST’s operations when a single afternoon session for housebound people run by volunteers was offered. At its peak the CREST Day Service has developed to serve up to twenty people a day, four days a week.
  • In late March 2020, the service was closed due to the pandemic and CREST relinquished the space in the lovely woodland setting of Peterhouse Community Centre in Walthamstow and the staff were largely put on furlough. Contact was made periodically with staff in this period. Shopna Ali (Manager) provided an excellent service to clients through telephone contact and enjoyed regular telephone singalongs.


  • CREST continues to support a small group of carers and ex-carers who had previously met as a friendship and support group twice monthly at Priory Court Community Centre. During the pandemic the service continued through the provision of telephone support. Ann Marie Mc Andrew managed the service.

Charity shop

  • Historically CREST had had a charity shop presence on Walthamstow High Street since 1995 and for a short period, a second shop at Bakers Arms in Leyton.
  • For the majority of this time the High St shop was run primarily by volunteers but in the latter stages a salaried Manager was engaged.
  • Before the lockdown of March 2020 the shop had been struggling financially and was failing to meet its running costs. This caused trustees to fully review the situation, the likelihood of it reopening and the risk from the liabilities associated with it. CREST’s trustees invoked the shop lease break clause in June 2020 with the lease ending in December 2020 and the Manager’s post made redundant
    Les, the shop Manager, and all the shop volunteers over the years were huge assets to CREST due to their work and commitment.

Big Locals

  • The Big Local was a national lottery community engagement programme, (part of the government’s localism agenda) under which designated communities were allocated £1 million to spend over a ten-year period. This money was for residents to spend after community consultation has highlighted local priorities.
  • Residents become members of a partnership then, rather than become a constituted body, they chose a local organisation to become their locally trusted organisation (the LTO).
  • The LTO holds and administers the monies for them, employs staff, and enters into any leases or contracts necessary. The Big Locals are required to abide by the policies and procedures of the LTO thereby ensuring good practice and the LTO gets a percentage fee for administering the funds.
  • CREST was originally chosen in 2014 as the LTO for St James Street Big Local then subsequently for the other Walthamstow one, William Morris.
  • Since 2014 CREST had taken on additional Big Locals in Romford, Hackney, Wood Green and Brixton and (at May 2021) had five Big Local employees on its payroll. CREST had also taken on a lease for a small cafe and some containers in a Wood Green park from where an employment training programme would operate.
  • During the lockdown each Big Local was allocated an additional £50k for their response to the pandemic. Each responded in different ways, (e.g. providing tablets for schools to undertake remote learning, providing bikes for NHS frontline staff to get to work).
  • Phillip Parr-CREST’s finance manager administered the Big Local monies on behalf of CREST and produced the relevant reports for partnership members, the Big Local representatives and the Lottery head office staff.

How can I get involved?


Offer your time and help support CREST services in your community.


As a charity, we rely on funding and donations to provide our services.