How a Leyland Military Veterans Cafe has been helping servicemen with their mental health for five years

A Bamber Bridge business has cooked up a storm to help The Leyland Veterans Cafe celebrate its fifth anniversary.

By Laura Longworth
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 3:45 pm

BlindZarus provided fresh produce from Mercers Meat in Bamber Bridge for an afternoon BBQ last month.

The cafe hosted the event to mark five years of supporting present and former servicemen with their mental health.

Simon Harkin, who co-owns BlindZarus, said: “Being a veteran myself, I’ve been to the cafe a couple of times and the chatter and camaraderie makes me feel like I never left the military. There are people there who have just left the military as well as people who left ages ago. I feel like I served alongside them as everyone has the same mentality so that’s nice.”

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Simon Harkin, centre, of BlindZarus, with volunteers at The Leyland Veterans Cafe's fifth anniversary event.

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Talking about the importance of the cafe’s work, Si added: “One of my biggest frustrations is that some people are quite happy to step over a veteran in the gutter. The cafe helps make sure no-one falls off the wagon.

“It helps veterans feel like they still have a toe in the door and somewhere to go. It’s a mental health thing, having that connection again.

“I’ve been through it myself, so I know these charities are needed. I never used to open up to anyone.

“I’d think, ‘Why offload onto them if they don’t understand it.’

"A lot of veterans are headstrong and don’t like to reach out, so the cafe offers them a way of secretly reaching out and having a chat with someone who understands them, which means a lot.

“If just one person steps through the door, then the job is done. People travel from Darwen to go there because there is nothing around there for them.”

Customers at the anniversary event shared their stories with each other while military weapons ranging from World War One to the present day were on display. Guests also enjoyed breakfast in the morning and a cake that took the cafe’s chef five hours to make and was decorated with the names of businesses and organisations who had supported the event. Celebrations also included songs by Hattie Bee.

Anyone serving - past or present, including family and friends - are all welcome at the cafe.