In 1999 a small group of church elders at Parkstone United Reformed Church decided to use a legacy they had been given to fund a half time chaplaincy service with Poole local authority. An Anglican Minister Jonathan Martin was appointed halftime chaplain to the local authority, with the support of the whole council, and halftime minister of the church in 2001. In 2002 there was an Open Day for chaplaincy so that anyone could pop in and suggest initiatives that chaplaincy might embrace. Amongst many ideas, Jeff Russell ( Senior Social worker in Adult Social services) identified loneliness as an issue that people of faith were well placed to respond to.
The chaplain welcomed these and many other opportunities, and the wider Council came up with resources to second Jeff Russell to work with chaplaincy for a couple of days a week. Together Jeff and Jonathan took the national Faithworks initiative and model, adapted it for Poole, and launched Faithworks Poole as an independent charity at St James Church, Poole, in March 2004.
Jeff was the first CEO, and Jonathan the initial chair. Faithworks emphasis was to support the local church to serve the local community, and provide support and resourcing for such initiatives which were likely to be beyond the reach of a local church (e.g. research, networking, payroll and administrative support). Initial projects included working to relieve isolation in older people. In 2008, as the work grew, it became Faithworks Wessex.
Over the years, new projects were added, all of which were about equipping and enabling churches to serve the marginalised in their communities: Poole Foodbank in 2006, homelessness work of various flavours, work with older people and carers (now passed to Prama), SMILE connect (Lone parent community) launched in 2009, three other foodbanks in 2012, and Recovery work in 2016.