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Grace Cafe wins award

Dr Ann Adams writes about the Grace Cafe - based at All Saints Church in Leamington Spa - winning a Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action Special Recognition Award.

The Grace Cafe was started in June 2015, but really began to grow when it received its first formal funding and was constituted as a small charity in 2017. This year the charity has been renamed ‘Grace Cafe Ministries,’ to reflect the broader range of opportunities we now provide. The Diocesan Mission Fund (DMF) provided the lion’s share of our set-up funds.

The Grace Cafe is designed to support people experiencing loneliness, isolation, anxiety, low mood and any other mental health problems through offering friendship, acceptance and peer support. We aim to promote people’s self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities and skills; and to support them in self-managing their problems and making positive changes in their lives. We have a great team of volunteers who have been trained in listening skills, who come alongside to befriend people whilst we do simple arts and craft activities. Where possible we get involved with local arts and craft projects, e.g. contributing to Leamington’s Art in the Park installations, and the WW1 centenary poppy display at St. Mary’s Church in Warwick. We also put people in touch with other community activities and sources of help they can engage with.

Annual Grace Cafe evaluations show that we have been successful in achieving our aims. For example, several cafe regulars have moved on to take up either voluntary or paid work; one has secured a place at university and now successfully completed his first year of studies within the context of a very challenging family background; one has secured a flat and has now lived independently from his parents for a year; and another found the courage to leave a situation of domestic violence. We have also been able to support members through surgery, illness and the process of decluttering a home, to make it safer for one of our older members.

In addition to cafe meetings we do a number of other things such as organising outings, e.g. to Kenilworth Castle, Charlecote Park and the Birmingham Wildlife Centre; and recently we took a party of twenty six people to a youth hostel in Minehead for an overnight stay. We also host an annual community Christmas meal for sixty-seventy people, and run regular fundraising activities such as hosting an afternoon tea at Easter.

Since June last year we have also been running the Space, again funded by the DMF, which builds on Grace Cafe activities but incorporates Bible study and prayer too. We regularly attract between ten-twenty people to the Space each week, with over fifty having attended in the past year. Finally, the Grace Cafe helped to launch a similar group in the south of Leamington towards the end of last year: the Friends of South Town.

On June 13th we were delighted to receive a Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action Special Recognition Award for our work. One of our trustees summed up everyone’s reaction by saying: “Fantastic news! Well done! What a team! Huge congratulations everyone”.