Douglas Valley Community in Wigan has been supporting community organisations to manage and run community buildings since 1994. It believes in the principles of self-help and local action for local problems, and its staff and board members work to make a real difference to the quality of life for local people.

Douglas Valley Community has an existing portfolio of eight community buildings across the Greater Manchester borough of Wigan. One of these buildings is Ince Community Centre where a community café has been set up by local volunteers of the community to give local people the opportunity to come together in a relaxed atmosphere where they can to have a drink, something to eat and a chat as well as being able to take part in other activities that are on offer within the centre.

The group of volunteers who help out at the café wanted to develop their skills within a catering environment and realised that to progress this they needed to have accredited training in basic food hygiene. The training has not only lead to the better running of the café, but has also provided the volunteers with training that could lead to employment.

One member said: “The community centre saved my life. I moved to Wigan from Germany almost six years ago for my husband’s work. I knew no one in Higher Ince, missed my family terribly and was so very lonely.

“I made myself go out for a walk every day, to the shops, just to have someone to speak to for a few moments. I used to walk past the centre but was never brave enough to go in. One day I saw a sign in the window: ‘Volunteers Wanted – Everyone Welcome – Please Pop In’.

“I was made so welcome, everyone was so kind and friendly, I felt as though I had come home. I started volunteering for a couple of hours every day on reception, greeting visitors, setting up the rooms and making refreshments. With more people to help, the centre got more and more busy and I was given the opportunity to build up the café which at the time only did teas, coffees and biscuits for groups using the building.

“I am now in a paid role and run the café which is very busy serving breakfasts, drinks and snacks with a special lunch once a week, and also providing buffets for groups using the centre. My volunteers make this possible.”

The community café has grown over the last three years, and is now attracting young mums, older people, and people with learning difficulties who look forward to attending the café on a weekly basis.

The member added: “There is so much more we want to do with our café to bring even more of the community together. I am part of that community now.”