George’s Café: Donnington’s community ‘gathering and socialising’ place | Vicky Meets

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Vicky meets... Beryl Walker, coordinator at George’s Café, Donnington Parish Hall.

• How did George’s Café come about and who are its customers?

A new energy in Donnington surfaced in response to lockdown. The concept was initiated and has been funded by St George’s Church and its congregation, who realised there was a need for a community ‘gathering and socialising’ place in Donnington. There is no other gathering place than our parish hall, so using it as a village square was an obvious choice. Over the past year we have been running a Saturday morning food bank drop-off at the hall from 10am to midday, which has generated over six tonnes of food for Chichester District Foodbank. Trialling a takeaway café at this time seemed like a good idea; people can stay to chat and catch up on that missed socialisation. There is plenty of space to be socially distant, so you can get a drink and a cake and stay to chat safely. George’s is for the whole community. It is self-funding and if it does make money funds will be ploughed into developing the project.

• How is George’s staffed?

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Beryl Walker, coordinator at George's Café, Donnington Parish HallBeryl Walker, coordinator at George's Café, Donnington Parish Hall
Beryl Walker, coordinator at George's Café, Donnington Parish Hall

Local volunteers are at the heart of both ventures, as without them neither the food bank nor George’s would have got off the ground. George’s is staffed by me, Karen Jarman, Liz Cooper and a rota of wonderful volunteers. The people of Donnington have again shown what can be achieved through their community spirit and enthusiasm. We are starting slowly and are on a steep learning curve, happy to adapt to the needs of the community, so we welcome any feedback.

• What’s on the menu?

We offer really good coffee (we invested in a bean to cup coffee machine), tea and hot chocolate, and homemade cakes. The team has been providing some of the cakes, but we’re also asking for donations of homemade cakes to sell.

• Might George’s move into the hall itself when lockdown eases?

We hope that with more volunteers coming forward it will enable us to offer indoor relaxed seating and perhaps even using the garden on warm summer days. The hall has recently been refurbished and has really good facilities. It is well-used, by the church and the community, for all sorts of activities and events. It can be booked for everything from classes to children’s parties.

• Have you run a café before?

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No, but I have done lots of food-orientated jobs. I trained as a home economist and then I ran my own celebration cakes business when my children were small. I went into teaching, focussing on food and nutrition. Baking is chemistry really, and that is what interests me.

• How’s it going so far?

It is clear that people are welcoming the café. You don’t have to drop off a donation to the food bank; George’s is for anyone who wants to meet up in Donnington for a coffee on a Saturday morning without having to go into town. For more information or to volunteer, drop in to see us on a Saturday morning.


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