There are smells of coffee and paint in the air at St Wilfrid’s Church Hall in Brayton, just south of Selby, where the weekly Wellbeing Café is under way on an autumnal Monday morning.
The Café aims to provide informal support for those whose lives are affected by mental health conditions (including carers and family members) by providing a safe, open space and by showing Christ’s love, compassion and acceptance for all.
“I was busy with the Brownies all day yesterday, says Churchwarden Claire Hodgson (upper picture, second from left), “but I just had to do some baking for today.”
Sure enough, while volunteer Chris (a retired lawyer who edits theological books) is organising leaflets and information from mental health charity York Mind on a table at the far end, his colleague Martha is arranging cakes and buns along with preparations for hot drinks.
In the corner there’s a ‘Reflection table’ with a candle burning; “It helps us focus that Jesus is at the centre of what we’re doing,” says Claire.
“I’ve always been passionate about this,” she explains. “Pete [Watson, Rector of Brayton] already had an idea to do something and then we got in touch with Hannah at York Mind. We started looking at a monthly drop-in and I offered to take it on, so we put a note out around the church.”
It was decided to run the Café weekly in order to establish the simplest, most reliable pattern for those with memory issues such as Dementia, even though this has become a big ask for the volunteers involved.
Customers Carl and Charlotte have arrived and sit down with hot drinks to chat with Claire and Martha – no takers for the cakes yet but the morning is young.
Then it’s down to business with a pile of tiny octagonal cardboard table favour boxes that need to be painted and decorated to sell on the Mind stall at Selby’s Christmas Lights Switch-On on the 2nd December. The rector drops in to paint a box and chat.
“I went to Tesco for some craft materials and when I told them what they were for, they gave me a £15 donation,” grins Claire.
Sarah and Julie arrive and join the box-painters; they both have children with additional needs and have come to the Wellbeing Café for the last couple of weeks to spend time with people who understand, and to join in with whatever is going on.
Julie says, “Claire is a hard taskmaster – it’s almost a military operation with her!”
Sarah is a friend of Carl’s who volunteers with Barnardo’s and has come along particularly to help with the crafts for the Mind stall; there will be a ‘Crafternoon’ from 2.00 to 4.00 on the 27th November too.
“It’s very friendly and open here,” says Sarah, and Julie adds, “Anyone who hasn’t been here before will find a warm environment.”
York Mind’s Hannah Hessle says, “I was thrilled when St Wilfrid’s approached me with the idea of setting up a Wellbeing Café to support people experiencing mental ill health in their community.
“The Café is a wonderfully calm and safe space for people to be themselves and have a chat with warm and friendly volunteers.
Hannah attends once a month to represent York Mind and to offer support, advice and information.
“I’m sure this will become an invaluable source of support for people in the Selby area.”