Saturday, 08 May 2021

Food bank founder to open community cafe at church

Food bank founder to open community cafe at church

A NEW café is to open in Sonning Common in April.

The Spring will be at Springwater Peppard Congregational Church in Blounts Court Road and initially will be open for 90 minutes on two days a week.

However, it is hoped to extend the opening days and hours within a few weeks.

The café was thought up by Louise Colam, 37, a member of the congregation, following the success of the church’s food bank during the first coronavirus lockdown last year.

She wanted to create a community hub where people could meet up to socialise and buy affordable food and drink.

The café will serve tea and coffee, cakes, soups and fruit and vegetables sourced from the Greenshoots nursery in Peppard, which is part of the Ways and Means Trust.

Mrs Colam, who lives in Paradise Road, Henley, said: “It’s about getting people back together and safely.

“It’s a great space and doesn’t look old-fashioned. It’s very homely, bright and vibrant and we have a garden which is wonderful for children to play in.”

At first, the café will be open from 12.30pm to 2pm from Monday to Wednesday and only for the existing activity groups at the church, such as the baking class, Compassionate Loaf, on Mondays and the toddler group, The Ark, on Wednesdays.

However, it’s hoped that after a few weeks it can open up to the whole community.

Mrs Colam, who will help run the café with four other volunteers, said: “It’ll be on a group basis at first but over time we would love it to be open all day every day.

“We are even thinking of starting new groups. For example, Sonning Common Youth Club might do an after-school group in the space for children to do homework or receive counselling.

“We’d also like to start a family night where people can buy a three-course meal for £5 and stay afterards to play games.

“We’re planning lots of different things we can do to utilise the space.”

Mrs Colam, who lives with her husband Stuart and their children Seb, 11, Isabelle, six, and Florence, three, started the food bank, called Good Neighbour, in March. She said: “My husband and I have been at the church for two years and when we went into lockdown I spoke to Lindsay Potter, who runs the church, about opening up a food bank.

“This was because I noticed people from the villages were relying on the Henley or Reading food banks.”

Twenty families in Sonning Common were among those who benefited from the food bank.

Mrs Colam then thought of the café idea and ran a trial for The Ark before the November lockdown.

She said: “We served tea and coffee and cake. It was really good and we got nice feedback about what kind of food people wanted.”

She estimates it will cost £2,000 to get The Spring up and running. She already has about £770 from donations while another £250 was donated by the Co-op in Wood Lane as part of its annual community donation scheme.

Nicky Taberner, 49, a member pioneer for the store, called the café a “brilliant initiative”. She said: “People think Sonning Common is a well-off place but there are families who need help. We want people to be able to access the things they need without the stigma around it.”

The church has also had a coffee machine donated by the Menza café at Dry Leas in Henley, which was installed for nothing by AMAXS, a Sonning Common construction company.

Mrs Colam said: “The coffee machine donation was massive as we would have had to fundraise for it.

“This is a proper community effort and that’s what we wanted it to be, for everyone to be involved.

“We still need to work out a budget to get the café up and running and we do need to continue to raise money.

“We’re hoping to get flooring put down, which is a big cost so we are looking to raise about £2,000 altogether.”

Ruth Elwell, another member of the congregation with a background in catering, will help Mrs Colam run The Spring, along with Clare Pelling, Mark Hill and Dave Turner.

Mrs Colam said: “We’ve spoken to lots of people who go to the church and those who are involved in the food bank and they say they haven’t seen anything like this in Sonning Common so we are feeling good about it.

“After covid, if anything, there will be a greater need for it.”

To make a donation, call the church on 0118 972 4519.

To donate to the food bank, leave items at Christ the King Church in Sedgewell Road.

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