Examining new models for continuing work of café

A NEW governance structure and business model for Sale’s 123 Café will be the task of a steering committee to be formed at a future open forum.

The resolve to continue the work of the café in creating a space for community – a safe place where people could have a sense of belonging, build connections and grow themselves – came out of a forum on July 21.

Following the announcement that 123 Café must soon close its doors under current arrangements, 17 people attended that forum, either by Zoom or in person.

The forum involved representatives of the Anglican, Catholic, and Uniting churches, the John Leslie Foundation, Sale Rotary, Wellington Shire Council, Sale Neighbourhood House and AP M Employment Services, drawing on a wide cross section of the local community.

Apologies were extended by the Salvation Army, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Sale College.

The value of 123 Café to the community was highlighted by Wellington Shire Council representative Karen McLennan.

She reflected on its point of difference, and the opportunities the possibility of extending the life of the social enterprise presented, especially given the social effects COVID -19 had on people’s lives.

“I really feel that the essence of what 123 Café has been about is that social connection and inclusion, and people getting some skills to move onto other things in their lives,” she said.

123 Café manager Jules Lanham presented a slide show on the evolution of the 123 project in creating a space for community, where ‘Coffee with a Purpose’ was born, as a mission initiative of the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland.

Mrs Lanham explained during its five years of operation, 123 Café had connected with local schools, social welfare organisations and other community groups such as Rotary and Lions, and had been generously supported by Freemasons and the John Leslie Foundation, among others.

She said the social enterprise had great success in giving students and jobseeking volunteers space and time to learn new skills in a safe environment, somewhere where they were valued, and allowed them to give back to the community.

“123 Café has been able to support these mostly young people, by helping them to help themselves,” she said.

Other success stories included ‘Knit ‘n Natter’, a group of up to 30 predominantly older women, who have been getting together on Tuesday afternoons to knit, talk, encourage each other, have a cup of tea and share some of 123’s delicious and healthy food.

The café had also hosted evening community dinners for people from all walks of life who wanted to share a simple meal and conversation.

Sale Neighbourhood House representative Sam Forbes encouraged the group to think about the core functions of 123 Café that were worth continuing, and asked what business structure, partnerships, and venue might be appropriate.

Michael Page and Andrew Bradley spoke of the Monday Tucker program and Seed Community Garden, and the needs of people for connection and support.

The forum concluded with chairman, Bishop Richard Treloar, proposing another forum in coming weeks to form a steering committee bringing together people from several different organisations to establish a new governance structure and business model.

People interested in being involved in the next forum can register interest with Narelle Ingle by email at gningle@netspace.net.au/