Retford Ladies Probus Club members were welcomed to the May meeting by President Angela Haynes and asked to raise a glass and enjoy a piece of cake which she had made in celebration of the Coronation of Charles III. Then she introduced Jane Price to talk about A Funny Kind of Coffee Shop – tales of when Jane and her husband arrived at the Church of St John the Evangelist in Balby near Doncaster in 2015.
To start they decided to run a coffee morning; they advertised it and not a single person came, but they persevered and got one or two more. They then offered the coffee and cake free which attracted a man who put a different interpretation on it and thought he was getting free sex and drugs!
Once the seed was sown, more people attended – the homeless, the poor mental health sufferers, the migrants who had nothing. As needs became apparent the project grew. One young man turned up wearing shorts and t shirt in the middle of winter so a clothing bank was started. Others needed simple household equipment; teaspoons were valued. Just to own something was important.
By this time the church was opening four days a week with 56 volunteers and food was being donated by local stall holders. Then came the pandemic, in which they managed to keep going. Afternoon tea was distributed from car boots with individual sugar sachets and pots of jam which kept disappearing. It turns out that drug addicts need lots of sugar when they are trying to kick the habit. Although they are in impoverished circumstances, they still like nice things and serviettes are appreciated.
They now have four big freezers and M&S, Tesco and Asda are generous donators. 500 people per week pass through their doors and last year it was 17,483 plus children. They are able to take donations which charity shops are unable to sell eg torn bedding and clean worn underwear.
Sadly, this wonderful church made the news recently because it has been broken into six times and stained glass windows trashed. The irony of this is that their motto is ‘Given freely, Freely given’ and their coffee shop is called Cuppa Kindness. There is no need for stealing as nothing else of any value is kept there. Although her stories were laced with despair, Jane was an inspirational speaker proving that oaks do indeed from little acorns grow.
The Club next meet on 16th June at 10.00am for 10.30am, when Charlotte Armitage from Doncaster Arts will be delivering a Dance ON Taster. All are welcome. Meetings are held at the Westhill Community Centre in Ordsall.