A community cafe in Kilbirnie in North Ayrshire is serving up coffee and lunch with a conscience.
The Blend-In Cafe at the Salvation Army’s George Steven Centre is open to the public and doubles as a training space for adults with learning disabilities. The not-for-profit social enterprise gives service users the chance to learn skills involved in serving customers and keeping a kitchen tidy. The cafe has been so popular with locals for its quality food and affordable prices that it is now open every weekday, from 9am to 3pm.
Harry Wylie, from Beith, is one service user who benefits from being part of the cafe team. His mum, Jean, praised staff at The Salvation Army for helping build up her son’s confidence and said: ‘Harry loves the cafe and really enjoys his work. It has made such a difference to his life. I never thought he would do anything like this. It’s made him more outgoing and sociable.’
Centre manager Joanne Graham said: ‘When you come into the Blend-In Cafe, you’re doing more than just buying your lunch. The vital funds raised help keep this important resource in place and creates more opportunities for vulnerable people.
‘The majority of our service users get the chance to work in the cafe and it lets them know that they can contribute to society, given the right support.’
The cafe is run by the dedicated staff team of Brenda Biggar, Nicola Jordan and Anne–Marie Hughes. Their aim is to help service users feel valued and worthwhile – all while serving up freshly made and affordable food.
Joanne added: ‘Brenda and her team are always prepared to go the extra mile to help service users. Brenda not only manages the kitchen and cafe but also manages the provision of work placements for many of the service users there. With the support of Brenda and her team, this will enable many of them to be able to transfer the skills learned into possible future work opportunities.’
Evelyn Fleming has been a regular cafe customer for the past seven years and said: ‘It’s a pleasure to come here and have lunch. We’re usually in a couple of times a week and the staff and service users are always so welcoming. The food is delicious and it’s great to see the service users develop as they spend more time doing their day-to-day duties.’