VOLUNTEERS recovering from mental illnesses will get more opportunities to build their confidence and gain new skills at Olive Tree Cafe as a result of a £1,800 grant from Nationwide.

The cafe, at the Manor Garden Centre, has used the grant to buy a new industrial mixer for the baking done on site, as well as a toasted sandwich machine.

The sheer size of the mixer will allow co-ordinators at the charity cafe to offer more opportunities to the volunteers they bring in from mental health rehabilitation service Twigs.

Twigs was also recognised with a £2,000 grant. Each of the donations come through the Community Champions Group at Nationwide, which is an association of employees who drive the building society’s citizenship agenda.

“These are two incredible bits of equipment,” said Phyllida Richards, 49, manager at Olive Tree.

“Many more of our volunteers can use the machine now, with more opportunities for training.

“We have had the mixer for a little while now and it has changed our baking opportunities here.

“The moment I saw it I realised how amazing a piece of kit it was.”

The cafe currently has 11 part-time members of staff and 55 volunteers on its books.

There are 35 volunteer hours put in at the cafe each day in total, which illustrates the scale of the opportunities available.

“We try to break down the stigma around mental illness. We know our customers at the cafe have a better understanding of mental illness as a result,” said Phyllida, of Ashford Road, Old Town.

“It’s been proved beyond doubt what we do here works. These tasks they get to do here improve confidence and skills.”

Olive Tree provides practical experience for people recovering from mental illness, with referrals from Twigs and Voluntary Action Swindon in John Street.

It has been in existence for almost three years and a birthday party is planned for next week. Phyllida said the grant would be seen as a an early birthday present.

Stephen Uden, the head of citizenship at Nationwide, said: “Getting involved with local charities is fundamentally important to Nationwide and many of our employees here in Swindon.

“It’s great to see staff from across the business coming together to develop fundraising activity and direct grants to good causes.

“The Olive Tree Cafe and Twigs are doing some great work and it is a pleasure to be able to support these charities.”