A vision for 123 Café to live on

Peter Hill

WHILE the decision to close Sale’s 123 Café at the end of 2020 because of the sale of its premises was made pre-COVID-19, the preservation of its mission has always been a strongly supported aspiration.

Bishop of Gippsland, the Right Reverend Dr Richard Treloar, told the Gippsland Times it had been pleasing to see the level of interest from other community groups, faith groups, and individuals in partnering with the Anglican Church to give the social enterprise a new chapter, and retain the ministry it had provided Sale.

He added the Anglican Diocese was keen to involve the local community to see if there was interest in a multi-lateral partnership to give the social enterprise a new location and format.

This way, people can continue to learn new skills, gain confidence, access services, and find social connectivity, as the 123 Café has so successfully done.

At a community forum held via Zoom in September, the vision of a new ‘community hub’ – where many different organisations could come together to provide social connectivity, support, training, and other services to the community – was developed.

A working group was established, with representatives from some of the organisations that expressed interest in developing the concept.

The group has begun its work, convened by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Susanna Pain, and will in time take over from the current 123 Café management committee.

The vision of a community hub that improves community connectedness and cohesion, supports community development, and strengthens community resilience was strongly endorsed at the forum.

Among the first tasks of the working group will be figuring out the best governance structure, with a cooperative or an incorporated body among models to be considered.

Those volunteering to serve on the working group include Sam Forbes (representing Sale Neighbourhood House); Michael Page (Monday Tucker), Rachael Stevens (Wellington Toy Library); Susanna Pain (St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral); Karen McLennan or Meg Capurso (Wellington Shire Council); Jacquie Postlethwaite (Sale Baptist Church); and Chris Stevens (Freemasons).

Sale Rotary Club is happy to help with the project and maintains a watching brief at present, with representative Andrew Bradley supporting the project.

The working group is also exploring some grant funding possibilities to allow the 123 enterprise to evolve into a new entity, while still retaining the values and founding vision of the original café – a place of inclusion, support, and empowerment.