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Sense of community brewing in the heart of Box Hill

Cafe Salvo is centrally positioned in the main business district of Box Hill.

Cafe Salvo at Box Hill Corps in Melbourne is fast becoming ‘that place’ as the first port of call for locals.

Having a cafe with an intentional missional focus was an important part of the corps’ strategy when it moved into its new corps building during COVID restrictions in 2020.

“Our staff have a real missional heartbeat,” said Captain Karyn Wishart, Box Hill Corps Officer. “At the end of the day, they want patrons to know Jesus, and they see themselves as the hands and feet of Jesus.”

The cafe has high visibility at the front of the corps building, which is in a central position in the main business district of Box Hill, a suburb 15km east of Melbourne CBD.

Local workers patronise the cafe before work or during their breaks. Many people are ‘walk-ins’ going about their business, and the cafe caters to people who engage with the corps programs and services situated in the corps building.

“Our cafe is a safe, welcoming place, with lovely food and great coffee,” said Captain Karen Harrison, the other Box Hill Corps Officer. “It’s a fantastic connection point to our community, and we know faith conversations have occurred.”

Cafe Salvo is staffed by part-time, casual and volunteer workers Monday to Friday from 8am to 2pm. Volunteers staff the cafe before, during and after Sunday worship.

Customers enjoy the “safe, welcoming space” and the great coffee that the cafe offers.

Sometimes community members come for their coffee and stay to watch the church service. As well as weekly fellowship time, the cafe also opens once a month on Sunday night for prayer and worship time.

The cafe facilitates a suspended coffee service, whereby paying customers can choose to pay for an extra coffee, which can then be provided free of charge to customers with financial difficulties who come through Doorways (emergency relief and financial counselling) and other corps programs.

The corps has partnered with TAFE and a local disability employment agency to teach their customers how to cook and make barista-style coffee. NDIS services have recently approached the corps because they see it as a place of warmth and inclusiveness. They discussed ways the cafe could help people struggling to leave their homes to overcome anxiety and social isolation.

“Our corps is really committed to what Cafe Salvo is doing and can do in the future,” Karyn said. “It has certainly come a long way from when we just served a coffee and toastie.”


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