Cafe proves right option for disabled

This Is Wiltshire: Sylvia Dowling and Clare Stow at work behind the counter at Options for Living cafe Sylvia Dowling and Clare Stow at work behind the counter at Options for Living cafe

OPTIONS for Living’s weekly cafe has grown from strength to strength since the volunteer-led project first opened its doors six months ago.

Options for Living is a project run by volunteers which was formed late last year after Living Options, which was run by disability charity Scope, closed down because Swindon Council withdrew £73,530 of funding.

As a result service users came together to set up their own volunteer-led group providing the same one-to-one advice, drop-in support and social and peer support for between 80 and 100 disabled people in the town.

As part of their fundraising efforts to continue the advocacy work, and to ensure the continuation of the peer-to-peer support network established by Living Options, Clare Stow and Sylvia Dowling and her daughter Natalie started running a weekly cafe.

Claire said: “The cafe is helping to get Options For Life going and making people more aware of who we are and what we’re trying to do.

“It’s also for social gatherings and a place where people can come along, know that they will not be judged and spend time with other people.

“A lot of people who have disabilities sometimes find themselves becoming isolated, and the cafe means that there’s a place they can go and feel safe and comfortable.

“Here it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel so happy, everyone here supports each other and listens to each other.”

Every Thursday from 10am to 2pm everyone is welcome to drop in on the cafe in the Buckhurst Park Community Centre in Walcot and enjoy a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake and a sandwich.

They have even expanded the menu to include a full English breakfast for less than £2.50, and their most expensive drink is a hot chocolate complete with whipped cream costing £1.

Most of the money is ploughed back into the cafe itself, but money is also saved to host special meals on other occasions, such as a roast dinner, or spaghetti bolognese.

Regulars to the cafe also enjoy a free birthday meal and a birthday cake.

Sylvia said: “We started off just offering tea and coffee but as time has gone on we’ve expanded it, so now people can come in for a cream tea or a piece of cake.

“We had to beg, borrow and steal a bit to set it up but we wanted to make sure we had our own set theme and have menus with colours that matched the table cloths.

“We don’t advertise what kind of cake it is because they are all home made and they change every week.

“Now at least 50 people come along each week and the whole hall is full.”

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