Charity cafe supports families

April 08 2022

A CHARITY cafe in Speedwell run entirely by volunteers is helping its ninth family to buy life-changing specialist equipment.

The Barton Hill RFC Charity Cafe in Speedwell has raised more than £27,000 to help families of disabled children and mental health charity Mind in two years – despite being unable to open its doors for most of that time.

The cafe at the rugby club in Duncombe Lane first opened in February 2020, providing a place for people to meet and have a bargain-priced meal in good company each Monday and Wednesday, from noon until 3pm.

Just over a month later the pandemic forced it to shut – but contact was maintained with friends and supporters, while volunteers delivered food to those in need, collected shopping, gave lifts to medical appointments and hosted 16 outdoor tabletop sales on the club's grounds.

Zee Walker with his powered wheelchair

By the time the cafe reopened last October it had raised £17,000 – and since then that figure has increased by more than £10,000, to a total of £27,787, as its popularity grows.

The cafe, which also sells donations of clothes, DVDs and other items, passes on all the money it makes, and none of the volunteers are paid. 

Most is put towards items of specialist equipment to help disabled children, with eight families helped so far and fundraising now ongoing for a ninth.

Among those helped was Fishponds boy Zee Walker, who needed a Tiny Trax powered wheelchair to get around. The cafe raised £6,820 to buy one.

Zee’s Mum Ellie said: "It provides him so much independence and also a great opportunity to learn about road safety. 

"He’s loving being able to pop to the counter at the library when he finds a damaged book, or play chase with his friends at the park. 

"This isn’t just a wheelchair, it’s freedom, and we’re so thankful for everyone’s hard work."

Rocco Pearson received a specialist trike, which cost £1,876.

Mum Jodana said: "Rocco is able to go out on a bike with his sister, which he’d never been able to do before.

"It’s given him so much independence and it’s great because, once he’s big enough, he can steer himself. It’s also a great way to get him out for exercise – it’s given him a great opportunity."

The rest of the money raised – just over £4,500 so far – has been donated to mental health charity Mind.

Rocco Pearson with his specialist trike

Volunteer Mandy Bryant said: "All money raised goes to charity and everything to do with the cafe is totally transparent, honest and open. Everyone is welcome and you do not need to buy anything – you can just go for company and conversation.  It is a very positive place and focuses on bringing people of all ages and from all walks of life together, from people in their 90s to babies." 

Regular customer Alison Bleadon said: "This cafe is definitely one of a kind, with a great atmosphere.  The volunteers really go the extra mile to make it somewhere that brightens someone’s day.  They are all so committed to the fundraising but also to the happiness and well-being of people that come."