A Swindon café that provides employment opportunities for local people, especially those recovering from mental health problems, has been given a boost, thanks to a donation from residents of a leading local housing association.
The Olive Tree Café has been given £900 by Sovereign Housing Association’s regional panel for the West of England as part of its effort to support local charities and community groups that help Sovereign residents and the communities in which they live.
The café, based at Manor Garden Centre, Cheney Manor, became a charity at the beginning of this year and is going from strength to strength with the help of its eight core staff and 40 volunteers.
Its aim is to help its volunteers to get back on their feet after suffering from mental health issues, and to support them in acquiring skills that will be useful in finding employment.
The funding from Sovereign’s regional panel will be used to enhance the quality of service. The café will purchase a free-standing double fryer, which will not only provide a more efficient service to customers and increase takings, but also reduce the team’s stress levels.
Gillian Barber, trustee of The Olive Tree, said: “We had been functioning with one small fryer, which put the team in the kitchen under great stress as we began getting steadily busier. Thanks to the grant from Sovereign we were able to buy a new, double-sized fryer which has increased productivity. The team are under less stress, the customers receive a faster service and all-round it has made a hugely positive impact on the café and all of our volunteers.”
“It’s about enabling them to build relationships with other people. A lot of people become isolated as a result of their ill health, so working with other people can be quite challenging,” she added.
The charity aims to provide a ‘safe haven’ for service users, giving moral and emotional support where required and providing opportunities, when the volunteers are ready, for interaction with customers. The Olive Tree is regarded by many of its users as an ‘extended family’ that provides them with a sense of belonging to a strong team.
Gemma Insley started volunteering at The Olive Tree following a bout of depression and is now employed by the café as a paid member of staff. She explained: “I was ill for five or six years and on medication, but one day I decided to come off the drugs and try to get back to work. I’d been quite a recluse, I used to self-harm before coming here. But I progressed from kitchen porter to cook and it’s helped greatly with my depression.”
Last year, Sovereign awarded over £180,000 to charities and projects across the UK as part of their ‘Make a Difference Campaign’. This year, each of Sovereign’s Regional Panels was assigned £30,000 to enhance the lives of Sovereign residents in their region, and is donated to local community groups, like The Olive Tree Café, in order to ensure it has the greatest impact possible.
Sovereign’s regional panels were created in October 2011 as a way of ensuring local accountability and scrutiny to reflect its commitment to put its residents at the heart of everything it does.
The Olive Tree also allows other groups to use the premises. A craft group meets once a week, as well as a mother and toddler group. A University of the Third Age Group and two walking groups also use the facilities.
If you know of a local project that could benefit from some of this funding or to contact the panel about anything else, please email firstname.lastname@example.org