Community café welcomes those needing a chat or employment advice

Imagine walking into a place offering you friendship and a bite to eat… a place where you can meet friends over a coffee or find solitude over a cup of tea.

In time, people welcome you by your name in the comfortable surroundings and you feel at home.

Salvation army social

The Salvation Army church in Hednesford operates a ‘friendship’ café offering the chance to chat and snacks, lunches and baked goods, with food donated from local supermarkets and other food outlets. Guests are welcomed and asked what they would like from the modest menu. The café is predominantly for social interaction, but is also helping local people during the cost-of-living crisis.

There is no charge, as the café is run on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis. Collecting boxes are available for those who choose, and are able to make a voluntary contribution. The café is run by local volunteers of the Christian church and charity, all of whom find their own personal fulfilment in volunteering.

One of the Church leaders, Major Rosemary Chatburn said: “We opened the café after the COVID restrictions eased last year. At one stage we were delivering 90 jacket potatoes every week across Hednesford and Cannock Chase during lockdowns. We also had ‘Monday food table’ that offered surplus food donated from local supermarkets, where people were able to fill a bag with what they needed. What commenced during lockdown, has now developed into a friendship café four afternoons a week from Monday to Thursday, alongside the community food table, still on Mondays.

“We wanted to provide a place where people could meet and begin to be social again and to make friends. We considered a friendship café to be a place where people could come and talk to others. Some of our guests depend on the food we provide, while others may drop in from time to time and enjoy just having someone else prepare food for them…to get out of the home and be somewhere else for a change.”

The café also welcomes those people who haven’t got a place to call home but who want to feel valued and part of community at The Salvation Army. David (not his real name), who is homeless, said: “There aren’t many places that have somewhere like this, you can come here and get a conversation and a hot meal, I leave with a smile on my face…the food is amazing.”

As part of the ongoing development of the friendship café, on a Wednesday afternoon, the church has recently opened an ‘Employment Plus’ service, enabling those who are struggling to find employment to receive assistance and support to access online job vacancies, make an application, create a CV and prepare for interview etc.

An employment specialist is on hand to assist with whatever advice is needed, anything from how to access benefits, form-filling for the Jobcentre or housing applications.

The Salvation Army in Hednesford has also organised a variety of activities for all ages, including weekly Christian worship. More information can be found on The Salvation Army website: https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/hednesford.

For more help with Salvation Army Employment services or to discuss specific needs, please email: Jason.larkham@salvationarmy.org.uk so that the support worker can prepare resources and time effectively on the Wednesday afternoon.

The café is run by the leaders of the church with nine volunteers, all of whom make visitors feel welcome. If you would like to offer support to the café, please email: hednesford@salvationarmy.org.uk.

Salvation Army Community Cafe College