11 December 2023

Volunteers get experience, make connections at church cafe

Dawn Maas (far left) and volunteers at St David’s Moorabbin Community Cafe N Thrift Shop. Photo: supplied.

Jenan Taylor

26 September 2022

Community volunteers, including individuals with intellectual disabilities, are gaining work experience and social skills at an Anglican church café.  

St David’s Moorabbin has been helping a number of people get work experience, improve their communication skills and gain a bit of independence through voluntary work in its Community Café N Thrift Shop.

Vicar the Reverend Michelle Wang said the café was usually staffed by church volunteers, but had decided to offer volunteer opportunities to people from intellectual disability support organisation Bayley House, and a number of members of the community who were learning to speak English.

Ms Wang said the café which had opened in June 2021 but had closed until early this year because of pandemic restrictions, aimed to help members of the community connect with each other.

Set up from Tuesday to Thursday every week in St David’s church hall, the operation includes a sit-down area where light meals and beverages are served, and there are also food products, books, plants and clothing for sale.

Café coordinator Ms Dawn Maas said parishioners who helped out there encouraged the community volunteers to learn how to interact with confidence with the general public.

Read more: Culturally specific detail may help Chinese Christians connect with faith course: Vicar

She said they also aimed to help them potentially be more ready for work in the wider community.  

Ms Maas said the volunteers’ duties included engaging with customers and organising the shop’s products range, including that of one its mainstay operations, the merchandise display and sales of homemade marmalades.

A volunteer herself, Ms Maas said she had found it rewarding getting to meet so many people and being able to see some of the shop’s income going towards charities including Anglicare and Barnardos Australia.

Ms Wang said the church had observed that an array of different groups often met in the café each week and that that had prompted it to start a post-lunch initiative on Wednesdays for people who normally wouldn’t or couldn’t attend Sunday services.

“They come and have a light lunch in the café first then stay for a service at the church,” Ms Wang said. “So, outreach really is our purpose.”

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