Chorley's café befriending scheme expands into Leyland
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"Talking Tables" was the brainchild of Marjorie Hayward, founder of the Friends For You befriending service, which has been operating in the area for the past five years.
She reserved a spot in six different cafes across Chorley on different days of the week and invited along anybody who fancied the combination of company and a coffee or tea.
The initiative was particularly targeted at people who had been confined to their homes since the pandemic struck - but were now ready to venture back out.
Since its mid-July launch, Talking Tables has regularly attracted 60 people a week - and Marjorie says new faces are appearing at the café doors on most days.
Such has been the success of the scheme that it has already added two bases over the border in South Ribble - one at the Roccoco Cafe and the other at the Hideout Café, both in Leyland. It will also be heading into Adlington later this month when it extends its service to the White Bear Marina Café.
Marjorie says she had feared "nobody might turn up" at the first events earlier in the summer - but soon realised that the concept had struck a chord.
"I think we have actually tapped into a rich seam of loneliness - despair, even. And we have provided a lifeline.
"I always ask people how they heard about us and very often it is through family who have suggested that they come along.
"But it isn't easy for them - some of these people have been cocooned in their homes for 18 months and have become frightened to go out.
"One lady told me she kept putting her coat on to come down - and then taking it off again. But when she finally arrived, she thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
"I think the key thing is that we have a volunteer at every venue - so even if nobody else was there, they would have somebody to greet them and give them a warm welcome," Marjorie says.
Rob Owen, from the Brothers of Charity Services, which operates the Roccoco and White Bear cafes, says that the ethos of the organisation's food-based enterprises - which help people develop employment skills - make them the perfect place to host Talking Tables.
"Marjorie was extremely happy to choose Roccoco as the first café in Leyland for this great community service. She was particularly enthused by the warm welcome given to her by the service users and staff alike," Rob adds.
Meanwhile, Marjorie has been approached from people in Manchester, Macclesfield and as far afield as Eastbourne, enquiring about the Talking Tables scheme.
"I've told them that I'll come and help them set it up - but I'm not running it for them," she laughs.
The popularity of the project closer to home in Central Lancashire looks set to keep her more than busy enough.
WHEN AND WHERE CAN YOU FIND A TALKING TABLE?
The service is on offer between 10.30 and 11.30am at participating cafes on the following days:
Mondays - Majestic Café, 92, Market St, PR7 2SF.
Tuesdays - Café Ambio, Astley Park, Astley Rd, PR7 1XA and from 21st September White Bear Marina Café, off Park Road, Adlington, PR7 4HZ.
Wednesdays - The Meeting Place, Chorley URC, Hollinshead Street, PR7 1EP.
Thursdays - Café Latte, 61, Union St, PR7 1AB.
Fridays - Café Connect, Living Waters Church, 33-45, Bolton St, PR7 3AB.
Tuesdays to Fridays - Taste Café, St Laurence Church, Union St, PR7 1EB.
Mondays - Roccoco Café, 5, Chapel Brow, Leyland, PR25 3NH.
Thursdays - Hideout Café, 2, Sumner St, Leyland PR25 2LD.
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