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New Salvos café opens in Sydney’s south to offer hope and connection


The Village, a Shire Salvos Community of Hope Café, has opened on the site of the Panania Salvos Store in southern Sydney.

 

BY LAUREN MARTIN

 

A Salvation Army café has opened in south-west Sydney, offering locals top-quality coffee, chats and connections to life-giving community and services.

 

‘The Village’ is a concept several years in the making, inspired by Bible verses such as Ephesians 4:1-7, Philippians 2:1-11 and Romans 15:5-7.

 

“We dreamed of a place that operates like a town hall,” Shire Salvos Panania Team Leader Natalie Sheehan said during the conceptual stages. “Where all people from the community could come, be heard, be seen and feel welcome. The Village is all about loving people and helping people to realise their full potential.”

 

Now, the doors are open, and the dream is becoming reality.

 

During its first week of operation, one customer said she was “so excited the café was finally open,” saying that she walks past on her morning walk and would be a regular customer. The café is being overseen by Natalie and run by Lieutenant-Colonel Sandra Godkin with a team of volunteers.

 

“The Village is all about loving people and helping people to realise their full potential.” – Natalie Sheehan

Customers who enter The Village will notice a few differences. It is located within the same building but separate from a Salvos Store, with access points to the store through the café. A QR code on its business cards and menu takes people to a website explaining how The Village is more than an ordinary café, that it’s a place of connection and hope. And soon, a screen on the wall will showcase different ways people can connect in community and how the profits from The Village go towards helping others.

 

“Within our team, we are creating a culture that, yes, we need to serve good coffee and food, but the main thing we care about above that is the person,” said Natalie.

 

Small things like not having table numbers but instead asking customers their names when they order ensure that connections are made.

 

“Every day, we have rostered on a ‘connector’,” she explains. “Their role is to basically just be present to the people that are in the café. It doesn’t mean that they are going to sit down with any group and chat at their table – some people won’t want that! But the role of the ‘connector’ is to say ‘hi’ to people, and if someone is sitting by themselves, they will have a brief chat and – if that person seems to want to chat for longer – they will sit down and engage.”

 

Further connections can be made depending on people’s openness and needs. For example, someone who shares that they are struggling financially might be given The Salvation Army’s Phone Assistance Line (PAL) number or introduced to the Shire Salvos Community Caseworker, who works one day a week at Panania. Food assistance, referrals, and other ways of coming alongside people in need are also being developed, and it’s envisaged that the different connection groups will begin operating on the sunny outdoor café deck in the near future.

 

“Shire Salvos Panania already has a thriving playgroup,” said Natalie, “and we want to add to that by offering groups that people can join. Maybe a ‘Boost’ group [The Salvation Army First Floor Program’s Boosted positive psychology program] or a Bible study.”


Click through the slideshow below for more photos of the café:



 


 


 

 

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