Friendships, support and community spirit (not to mention 30 cakes a week and coffee) ... how Elspeth's dream is still flourishing after 10 years

October 05 2019
Friendships, support and community spirit (not to mention  30 cakes a week and coffee) ... how Elspeth's dream is still flourishing after 10 years

They only thought it would last until Christmas. When the late Revd Canon Elspeth Desmond had the idea of a coffee shop in St Peter's Church, it could not have been imagined how, 10 years on, it is both flourishing and becoming a Filton institution.

They only thought it would last until Christmas.
When the late Revd Canon Elspeth Desmond had the idea of a coffee shop in St Peter's Church, it could not have been imagined how, 10 years on, it is both flourishing and becoming a Filton institution.
The figures tell their own story -  a team of 30 volunteers ... up to 30 amazing cakes baked every week ... and opening hours Monday to Friday, every week of the year.
Since those early days in 2009, the cafe has become a must-go place for people in Filton. Young, old, professionals, those out of work, people who need some support - it is a place for everyone.
Elspeth died last year but her legacy carries on. This is not just a cafe ... it is a place where friendships have flourished and where those who are struggling can find help and a kind word.
Revd Lizzie Gregory, who was a parishioner in the days when the cafe was first suggested, said: "The Coffee Shop at St Peter’s was designed to be a place where the people of Filton could go during the day, for a good cup of coffee, a slice of homemade cake and a friendly face. It was never imagined that, 10 years on, it would still be going strong.
"Over the years we have welcomed many people from all walks of life, sometimes in times of need, loneliness, or sadness, or as a lovely space of peace and quiet away from the busyness of the work day.  Quite often, those that come to the Coffee Shop, have loved it so much they have gone on to become volunteers."
Angela Thompson is the cafe manager and she is proud that her team of volunteers have kept the cafe going every day since it opened.
She relies on around 30 people who bake cakes, serve tea, clear up and generally make the place so welcoming.
She said: "The demand has kept up through the years.
"We have seen people meet here, become friends and even form friendship groups who go on coach trips and socialise outside the cafe."
Among the groups who have benefited from the cafe are people who have lost their husband or wife.
One of the volunteers is June Watkins, whose much-loved husband Tony died in the early days when the cafe was being set up.
June has volunteered ever since - calling herself  'The Tuesday Girl' - as she helps regularly on that day each week as well as baking cakes.
She said: "In the early days we didn't think it would last beyond Christmas.
"But over time it became a place where friendships were made and we get a real mix of people here.
"I lost my beloved husband shortly before the Coffee shop opened. We had both decided to help so I could see no reason to change my mind. I just feel that whatever I have put into the shop I have received twofold."
June said a key factor in the cafe's success is the quality of the coffee and cakes.
The volunteers do not accept a single penny for their baking - money goes back to support the church and the cafe, with 10% of any profits going to charity. Donations are asked for, but if someone is a bit short then whatever they can offer is gladly accepted.
The church doors are always open but the cafe team stress there is no 'hard religious sell' - if people want to benefit from  some spiritual help, the offer is always there but equally if just being part of a friendly group of people is all they want then that is fine too.
Lizzie added: "The social impact of the cafe has been huge. We are able to help when people need it and we do see all kinds of issues such as problems with housing where we can offer support. This is what Elspeth wanted.
"We are fortunate to have over 30 volunteers who staff the Coffee Shop, and provide delicious homemade cakes. We only ever ask for a donation of £1.50 per item to go towards our running costs. We are always in need of volunteers, so if you would like to come and be part of a welcoming team, doing something worthwhile for your community then do be in touch - whether you can offer just a couple of hours a month, a regular slot or to bake us a cake, we’d love to hear from you."