First Week Musings

 

Written by Lawrence Glyn, initial duty cafe manager:

 

We have had such a lovely, warm welcome in the heart of Harehills this first week and already it feels like we are beginning to make a small, yet noticeable, difference to the area.

I am touched by the generosity of a local shop worker who has bought food and drink every day, relieved to find a caring neighbour willing to deliver to him so that he can nourish himself through the day. Of course, he was the first person to give me that puzzled look, slightly bemused, accompanied with, ‘How does that work?’ only to see that by the end of the week, he gets the pay-as-you-feel concept and he makes a reasonable and generous donation every time.

The amount of food waste is truly astonishing; I have seen bags full of pastries unsold, still edible and delicious, collected from a medium-sized supermarket, coming into the café every morning. I have witnessed another supermarket waste about 50 crates of food in one evening – just one shop in just one neighbourhood on just one day.

Customers have come from a few local places, mostly from passing footfall and local shops. The conversation began to flow – a couple dropped off their car and ended up discussing ways to run a group for people who wanted to set up craft projects; a guy who sets up photography labs and studios at the university was keen to take photos of the area and teach others how to use a camera and had visions of the artwork on walls for purchase; the IT man who had travelled into Leeds for a meeting, who made himself comfortable for a few hours on our very first morning; a local hairdresser who popped in offering to cook Caribbean food once a month; a meeting of professionals who are largely responsible for getting this new phase off the ground, here to meet Anna, our managing director, for an opening get-together and press release; Natalie, our volunteer and Time to Shine co-ordinator, meeting potential new volunteers throughout the week, always bringing a smile; the locals who have shown up, really interested in a coffee-shop in Harehills which has clearly been lacking in the area; they were happy to get a coffee and they were really looking forward to our hot-food menu of breakfasts and lunches that will come in January.

And finally, last but by no means least, the teams of volunteers who turned up every day to do their shifts often working many more hours than the two hours they had originally pledged. We are working together learning new skills as we prepare for the café to be fully and smoothly running in the new year. There was a real sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

After our first week, I feel privileged to know that Toast Love Coffee is making a difference to people’s lives, and for some that change is already quite dramatic. Younger volunteers have found a new purpose, some who want to keep busy locally, others who want to be part of a team and improve their English at the same time.

And me? I’m loving having the opportunity of managing the Toast Love Coffee cafe and developing systems that are beginning to bring some magic and sparkle to the heart of Harehills. A great coffee, some lovely warm food to eat, and striking up a friendly conversation perhaps with someone you’ve never met before. This is Toast Love Coffee. Get yourself down and come and say ‘Hi’.

Lawrence, Initial Duty Café Manager

published by Anna Dyson
Founder and Director of ToastLoveCoffee. CEO of Dyson family, Roundhay (Leeds) branch which involves a huge array of skills impossible to imagine or articulate! Formerly, Jewish educator and community professional.
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