Lisburn businessman joins with churches to provide a free café for the local community

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A Lisburn businessman has joined forces with local churches, community groups, and other businesses to bring a free community cafe to the Ballymacash area of the city.

Jonathan Oates, who runs the Windmill Stores in Ballymacash with his wife Claire, came up with the idea three years ago, in the hope of offering people somewhere to go to get together for a chat and enjoy a free meal.

"We decided to do the cafes because we saw first hand the need for such a service everyday in the shop,” explained Jonathan.

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"We had never in the 17 years of owning the shop seen so many customers that required additional financial help with groceries, gas, electric etc and as much as we tried to help we realised quickly as a small business that it was financially unsustainable in the long term so we needed an alternative that could reach a larger group of people especially during those difficult winter months.

Jonathan and Claire Oates have teamed up with local businesses and churches to provide a community cafe. Pic credit: Jonathan OatesJonathan and Claire Oates have teamed up with local businesses and churches to provide a community cafe. Pic credit: Jonathan Oates
Jonathan and Claire Oates have teamed up with local businesses and churches to provide a community cafe. Pic credit: Jonathan Oates

"After consultation with our local church leaders, sponsors and, our local community centre, the cafes were born.”

As the cost of living crisis continues unabated, there is a need now more than ever for initiatives like this to reach out to the local community.

"The cafes would be impossible to implement without the financial help of my sponsors, who are all local businessmen, and of course the amazing churches and the volunteers that commit to this project over several months.”

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The churches involved this year are Emmanuel Baptist church, which runs the cafe on Mondays from 12noon-2pm, Trinity Methodist Church holds the cafe on a Tuesday from 12noon-2pm and Elmwood Presbyterian Church have extended hours on a Thursday from 10am-2pm.

"The cafes are open every week for a 12 week run,” continued Jonathan. “We will have warm soup and rolls, alongside sandwiches, biscuits, cakes, tea and coffee. The cafes are completely free for anyone who wants to use them and a warm welcome is assured.”

Windmill Stores is a Costcutter on the Ballymacash Road in Lisburn. Jonathan and Claire have run the shop, together with Claire’s mother Jane Moulds, since 2006.

“We care about our community deeply,” Jonathan added.

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