St Andrew’s Church wins community award

ST Andrew’s Church, Skipton, received a community project award from Congregational Insurance for its Wellbeing Café. The award comes with a £2,000 bonus.

The café, hosted at the church every Thursday afternoon, provides a welcoming space for people struggling with mental health issues. Attendees are personally greeted and made to feel comfortable upon arrival. Initially the cafe only served cookies, cakes and coffee – but after realizing that many guests were not eating well, the cafe started offering hot lunches for a small donation.

As well as hosting individuals, the cafe has been adopted as a hub for a variety of mental health professionals and agencies. Support workers, social prescribers and alcohol/addiction counselors all regularly use the café as a place to bring their clients to chat, eat or participate in activities together.

Cellar Trust, MIND and Craven College & Adult Learning Services are other organizations that use the café as a meeting place with their clients. The church is able to provide private space if needed.

The coffee is supplied by four cooperatives. As part of their national Foodshare program, they contribute to food surpluses. Additional excess provisions are donated by Skipton Foodbank, housed in the same building. Using these donated goods, the cafe runs a “free shop” where attendees can stock up on a pantry.

Activities offered at the café include board games, puzzles, occasional live music, short talks on topics such as hygiene, first aid and debt counselling. Most importantly, the cafe hosts visiting local artists (provided through the Pioneer Project) who lead art projects in which attendees are encouraged to participate. These creative projects include painting, clay, embroidery and other crafts.

Jean Bedford, a member of the core team who runs the café, says it has become a community for its participants. “We are now seeing a wide range of people who come across different types of severity of needs, including isolation and loneliness, mental health issues, disability poverty, anxiety, unemployment, low education, family breakdown, addiction, debt or homelessness.” Several helpers who work in the café have taken a mental health first aid course and are available to listen and offer support to anyone who wants to talk.

Peter Smith, member of the central team, added: “We are all delighted to have been selected to win this award. We look forward to using the £2000 wisely to improve on what’s already on offer.

Garland K. Long