Hospice-run cafe to close

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Py­man @TomPy­manKM tpy­man@thek­m­group.co.uk

Vol­un­teers have been left “dev­as­tated” af­ter be­ing told a pop­u­lar town cen­tre cafe, which hosts a num­ber of com­mu­nity groups, is to close on Christ­mas Eve.

Heart of Flavour on King Street, Maid­stone, is a reg­u­lar meet­ing point for groups of el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, in­clud­ing a sup­port group for peo­ple suf­fer­ing with gluten in­tol­er­ance, be­lieved to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The cafe was opened in 2015 in or­der to gen­er­ate in­come for the Ayles­ford-based Heart of Kent Hospice, and has since also hosted wed­dings and other func­tions, with all prof­its go­ing to­wards pa­tient care.

How­ever, char­ity bosses ad­mit they have strug­gled to gen­er­ate enough profit for it to con­tinue to be vi­able in re­cent months, and will be clos­ing the store, and sell­ing the build­ing later this year.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Sarah Pugh said: “This has been a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, and we’d like to thank ev­ery­one who has sup­ported Heart of Kent Hospice by us­ing an vol­un­teer­ing in our cafe and func­tion rooms over the past three years.

“We had hoped that the café would gen­er­ate a re­li­able and sus­tain­able source of in­come to fund our work, but un­for­tu­nately this has not been the case; de­spite tri­alling a range of dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives over a pro­longed pe­riod of time.”

One mem­ber of paid staff will be made re­dun­dant when the cafe closes, while the 27 vol­un­teers who have pre­pared food and served cus­tomers are be­ing asked to con­tinue do­ing so in a dif­fer­ent ca­pac­ity, where pos­si­ble.

One vol­un­teer, who asked not to be named, said: “Ev­ery­body is pretty dev­as­tated, and I won­der if they re­alise the im­pact this will have on peo­ple.

“Peo­ple ab­so­lutely love go­ing, it’s a fan­tas­tic place with a re­ally nice atmosphere that can get re­ally busy on some days.

“Maid­stone is full of cof­fee shops but this has got so much more to it.

“Peo­ple come here and they build their con­fi­dence, it’s a chance for them to mix with peo­ple with­out feel­ing un­der pres­sure - I just think it’s such a shame.”

Heart of Flavour says it will hon­our all events booked up un­til Christ­mas Eve, but will not be tak­ing book­ings be­yond that date. Any con­cerned cus­tomers should call di­rectly on 01622 792200 ext 206.

Man­ager Scott Fitzgerald in the Heart of Flavour eatery, above left, and the out­side of the King Street cafe, top right, which is used by groups for events such as danc­ing, above

Sarah Pugh, CEO

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