Hemingford Grey’s new cafe is a community milestone

FOUR years of hard work and perseverance came to fruition this month as customers were welcomed through the doors of a new community cafe in Huntingdonshire.

More than 100 people attended the opening day of the Hemingford Garden Room in Hemingford Grey which it is hoped will eventually become a social hub for the village.

The non-profit-making initiative is the brainchild of St James’ Church members Karl Benn, Rebecca Pluke and Cath Quinn.

The trio wanted to maximise the use of the church’s existing garden room in the High Street, and it was felt a cafe would appeal to all members of the community, regardless of their age.

It took two years to raise the �140,000 needed to get the project off the ground and another nine months to extend and refurbish the garden room.

Proceeds from the cafe will be ploughed back into local group and charitable initiatives at home and abroad. Hopes are to set up a Waitrose-style Community Matters scheme in which customers will vote how they would like profits to be spent.

Cafe director Mrs Pluke, 40, said: “There were things for older groups and young people with children, but there was nothing for professional people working from home, and nothing for girls and teenagers in the village. We wanted to get the whole community to come together a bit more.

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“Without the church it could not have happened, but we are a separate business. We are going to be self-sustaining, raising money for the community.

“Though it is church-led, my vision is that it should not be like some church coffee shops. I want it to be contemporary and modern.”

A large proportion of the money raised for the project was donated by church members. Waste recycling group WREN also provided a �25,000 grant to help with alterations.

Two managers have been employed to run the project full-time, though an army of 20 volunteers will be on hand to help out.

Plans are to host evening events including talks on charities and IT sessions for older people, so the cafe is in use round-the-clock.

Mrs Pluke, a teacher at St Ivo School and mother of one, is expecting her second child within the next few weeks. Fellow founders Mrs Quinn, 41, and Mr Benn, 40, also have families and work full-time.

Seeing the cafe finally up and running has been a dream come true.

Mrs Pluke said: “My vision is that it will be cross-generational. We have got a team of young people from the church who are willing to help older people in the village.

“I would love to see them helping each other - the older people helping out their homework and the younger people helping older people with technology.”

INFORMATION: The cafe offers breakfast bagels and croissants, light lunches including sandwiches, paninis and salads, a wide range of cakes, and coffee, and is open from 9-5pm weekdays except Tuesdays and 10am-2pm Saturdays. To find out more call 01480 467250.