Learning Disabilities Are No Obstacle To Staff At Kilbirnie Café
The Blend-In Café at The Salvation Army’s George Steven Centre serves great food. But it does more than that. It also provides on-the-job training for adults with learning disabilities, teaching them essential life skills, as well as, of course, the ins-and-outs of working in the service industry.
The café may have started humbly with training in mind, but, thanks to the quality of food, the friendliness and efficiency of staff, and great prices, it’s proven so popular that it had to extend its hours. It’s now open every weekday, 9am – 3pm.
The difference productivity makes
Harry Wylie is a service user and his mum is pleased as punch that her son is able to gain confidence through positive productivity at work. She said, “Harry loves the café and really enjoys his work. It has made such a difference to his life. I never thought he would do anything like this. It’s made him more outgoing and sociable.”
Blend-In is run by Brenda Biggar, Nicola Jordan, and Anne-Marie Hughes. Their work to enable service users to benefit from training, including feeling like valuable, worthwhile members of the community, is sometimes unsung. However, Centre manager Joanne Graham highlighted their dedication and good work when she said, “Brenda and her team are always prepared to go the extra mile to help service users. Brenda not only manages the kitchen and café, but also manages the provision of work placements for many of the service users there. With the support of Brenda and her team, this will enable many of them to be able to transfer the skills learned into possible future work opportunities.”
The community’s response
One community member who has become a regular at the café, Evelyn Fleming, said, “It’s a pleasure to come here and have lunch. We’re usually in a couple of times a week and the staff and service users are always so welcoming. The food is delicious and it’s great to see the service users develop as they spend more time doing their day-to-day duties.”
Commenting on the importance of community support, Joanne Graham said, “When you come into the Blend-In Café, you’re doing more than just buying your lunch. The vital funds raised helps keep this vital resource in place and creates more opportunities for vulnerable people. The majority of our service users get the chance to work in the café and it lets them know that they can contribute to society, given the right support.”