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Volunteers take on DIY café refurbishment to give adults with learning disabilities a new start

Published: 15/06/2022

A team of volunteers from Shotton came together to refurbish a much-loved café in preparation for its grand re-opening on Tuesday, 14th June. The café, which was forced to close due to the pandemic, is a supported employment initiative run by national charity Hft in partnership with Flintshire County Council, which supports people with learning disabilities to work and gain valuable employability skills. 

The revamp was spearheaded by local heating company CAFGas CIC. The company, owned by James Hunt, is a Community Interest Company which re-invests surplus revenue into community initiatives. One such initiative is ‘Nanny Biscuit’, a voluntary group run in partnership with CAFGas, which is affectionately named after James’ own grandmother. A team of volunteers from Nanny Biscuit lent a big hand with the renovations.

The project gained the attention of Welsh Middleweight Boxing Champion Gerome Warburton, who is sponsored by CAFGas, and he attended the re-opening on the big day.

As a regular at the café for many years, James said he was inspired to undertake the refurbishment after learning about the negative impact that the pandemic had on the people who worked there, and set about drumming up support from local businesses.

The project has garnered a huge response, with support from national organisations including Airbus, Redrow and Wates Group. Local businesses have also jumped on board, offering a range of equipment and services completely free of charge. Flooring has been supplied and fitted by Orchard Flooring, with Wall Lag supplying and fitting radiators, and artwork and signs being created by Double Click Design. Other local companies provided their services including P&K Joinery, Mottram Decorators, Sunbelt Rentals and Thorncliffe Building Supplies.

Maria Williams from Hft Flintshire said:

“The people we support missed the café greatly during the pandemic. It was a great way of interacting with the community and also to learn valuable skills such as customer service, food hygiene, money skills etc. We are so incredibly grateful to James and to all the volunteers and the businesses who are involved in this project. This will be a great new start for all of us.”

The café, formerly called Rowley’s Pantry will open under its new name Caffi Dai (which translates to Dragon Café). The name was inspired by a piece of artwork in the form of a giant dragon which will hang from the ceiling of the café, creating a spectacular visual for customers. The dragon was created by and donated to Hft by social enterprise Rainbow Biz.

The re-opening of the café couldn’t come soon enough for one staff member, Hayley, who is supported by Hft in Flintshire. Hayley said:

“I love working at the café, especially using the coffee machine. I want to say thank you to James for all his hard work. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to see it.”

The re-opening was a real community event, with the choir from local primary school Ysgol Croes Atti performing on the day. Children from Venerable Edward school were also there, having created artwork to adorn the café, while local councillors, business owners and members of the public were are also in attendance.

The café furniture is being upcycled by another Hft supported employment initiative ‘Second Chance’, which trains people with learning disabilities to repurpose household items that would otherwise be sent to landfill. 

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