Launched last week by Good Morning Britain presenter, Ranvir Singh, The Mill will support people facing life-shortening illnesses in an informal, relaxed café setting.
It will provide information, advice, therapies and support, and is intended to be an attractive community hub open to all – with the aim that the fear or anxiety some people feel about hospices can be dispelled.
The Mill Café will offer locally sourced, seasonal dishes and even a special St Catherine’s blend coffee. In addition, rooms can be hired out by local groups and businesses to host everything from craft sessions to management meetings.
The project, which has been funded largely by grants and special awards – including a substantial grant won from NHS England – will operate as a social enterprise, with all profits ploughed back into the specialised care of St Catherine’s Hospice.
As fundraising for the hospice continues to be extremely tough, the new venture is part of a business transformation programme to bring in vital new income for the charity.
‘An exciting new chapter’
Television journalist and broadcaster Ranvir Singh, who made the first cup of coffee in the new café, said:
“It is wonderful to see a much-loved local charity looking forward to an exciting new chapter – adapting to the changing needs of local people and working in new ways to help the local community whilst also attracting new supporters to ensure its survival for the future.
“The building itself is beautiful and the café menu looks fantastic. The Mill really will be an asset in the local area on many different levels.”
Chief executive of St Catherine’s Hospice Stephen Greenhalgh and chairman of the board of Trustees, Cliff Hughes MBE, led the speeches at the official launch event last week.
Cliff said: “The finished project you see before you would not have been possible without the hard work of many over the last six years – from those who helped us win the grants to fund the venture, to the contractors who turned our vision into a reality.”
Stephen added: “As we look ahead to 2015, our 30th anniversary year, The Mill signifies an exciting new chapter for St Catherine’s. It sees us go ‘back to the future’ as we step out with this bold new project – just like those pioneers of St Catherine’s in the 1980s.
“This fantastic resource, based on ideas from patients and families, will benefit people on many levels – from a friendly face offering welcome advice, to a place to ‘come back to and reflect’ or just to meet friends, host a business meeting or attend a yoga class.
“Our biggest hope is that The Mill becomes a source of inspiration that removes anxieties about hospice care and empowers people to help friends and neighbours at those times when it matters most.”
‘My whole perception was changed’
At the launch, guests were treated to a sample of The Mill Café menu before taking in some of the activities that will be available for the community, including craft sessions and the Ledbed therapeutic dance-based exercise class, specifically developed to help those living with Lymphoedema.
64-year-old Stephen Davies who has liver cancer and is currently accessing the support from the hospice, was another of the guests.
He and his wife Lesley said they were delighted to see The Mill ready for business.
“When I started receiving care from St Catherine’s, my whole perception of what a hospice is was changed,” he said.
“I’d believed they were bleak and depressing places. But I’ve had my eyes completely opened – now I know they are about making the most of life through help and advice about all sorts of things, not just physical problems.
“I think The Mill will help this even more. People will be able to call in for a coffee and find out more about the hospice and what it’s really like – helping to break down those barriers.”