Every community needs something different, big or small, but it’s always the people that make the difference. That’s immediately obvious the instant you meet Yvonne and Colin, who run Eccles Together. What started as a community coffee shop in Eccles precinct has grown to be much more.

The precinct is like so many in the smaller towns and suburbs dotted across Greater Manchester – empty shops where big retailers once stood are unfortunately all that’s left to provide for the locals. The effects of austerity and decline are felt by everyone in local communities, and it’s often the elderly that feel the sting of this decline most of all.

Statistics show that over 9 million adults across the UK regularly or always lonely. Isolation isn’t just difficult, it can have a real and tangible effect on the health and wellbeing of any individual, leaving them even more vulnerable.

Of course, that’s where a local coffee shop can make all the difference. Yvonne’s attitude isn’t that of a big name chain though. She knows it’s more important for isolated folks to get together and find friends, than it is to make a tidy profit.

From the coffee shop, sprang the idea of bringing her regular customers – largely over 60s who are often living alone – even closer together. Instead of keeping well-earned tips and profits, Yvonne and Colin wanted to put them back in to organising trips away, to Southport and beyond, giving the community a chance to bond and socialise over a meal and a day out kicking their heels. It didn’t take much to persuade them.

This is also where Forever Manchester stepped in. After finding Forever Manchester online, they applied for a grant and we were delighted to help. The grant would go toward paying for a slap-up meal that did more than fill some bellies – it brought those who needed it closer together.

It’s no wonder that we were pretty inspired by the infectious personality and attitude of Eccles Together. Their tenacity and desire to make a difference locally is something that we know exists all across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, and it’s what keeps communities thriving against the odds of economic downturns and frankly rubbish weather.

So, of course, we had to show them we recognised their ability to make a difference. In February of 2019 we awarded them the Growing Community Award at our annual birthday party. It’s not just a trophy, it’s a way to get their name out there and show how it’s the groups that are making the real change in this city.

By her own admission, Yvonne was totally blown away. But her coffee shop regulars weren’t surprised. They knew she deserved it for the difference she’s making to their lives every day.

Check out the video to find out more about Eccles Together.

Got a community group near you that needs our help? Get in touch and let us see what difference we can make together.