There are not many people that could run a busy café whilst training and tending to the social and sometimes heightened, emotional needs of a team including people with disabilities.
Alison Couch (Ally) is the amazing woman behind the Chill-Out Café, a Coffs Harbour Support Services initiative in Partnership with Coffs Harbour Meals on Wheels, that gives our clients the opportunity to work in a real café.
We spent time with Ally to highlight the challenges and rewards that come with taking on this partnership.
What’s it like day to day?
We are a typical café. Whilst there is a program that is run through the café, we have regular trading hours, we have loyal customers, deal with large groups for daily service and are a place that people can come for morning tea or lunch.
Every day varies and the team is also made up of retired community volunteers. These guys aren’t here to support, they are here as team members. Everyone has a role they play and at the end of the day we are a functioning café. We have to deliver the best customer service, ensure our meals are of high quality, presented well and that the customer enjoys the experience.
What do the clients get out of it?
The clients come to work just like we do, the socialisation they get is almost as important as the work experience. The needs and abilities of each team member can vary so much that we individualise training, roles and support to each person.
I really concentrate on making this a dream job. Whilst there are bins to be taken out, floors to be mopped and dishes to wash, the people who volunteer here do it because they are filling their hearts. Creating that positive and inclusive environment facilitates that.
Do things go wrong?
It’s a café, there is always the unpredictability in service but we manage with an ‘anything can be done’ attitude – that’s part of our values. Supporting people to achieve their goals.
How important are goals?
The clients that come to us each have their goals that they want to achieve and we facilitate the right environment to help them achieve these goals. Some are looking for skills in socialisation and communication and others and looking to develop skills to get paid work elsewhere.
When they start with us there can be some big gaps that we need to work with and we try to polish their social and work skills to fill in the gaps. A big part of this role is keeping the relationships of the team stable.
Coffs Harbour Support Services appreciates and commends the work Ally does with clients. Deb Shipman, Operations Manager, beams of Ally, “She really does an amazing job. As Coffs Harbor Support Services is going to be a leader in the delivery of NDIS to the Coffs Harbour region, it is highly important to have these partnerships in the community that can assist our clients to ‘Live a good Life’ as our motto states.”
You can support our clients by going down to Chill-Out Café.
The beautiful bright venue is open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 2pm for morning tea & lunch and is located in the Community Village in Earl St. (behind Coles).
They serve café-style food with lunch specials changing daily, including roasts, curry and seafood. There are discounted meals available for HACC clients, over 65s, people with disabilities and carers.
People with disabilities work in roles as wait staff, kitchen hands and beverage preparation. Meals are prepared in a commercial kitchen by a cook.
Let their healthy affordable meals and barista made coffee warm your tummy and their friendly service warm your heart.