Sandbag Cafe is huge hit with veterans in Heywood

Date published: 15 December 2018

A veterans’ cafe has been a huge success having more than 1,000 visits since it opened just over a year ago.

The Sandbag Café is run by Veterans in Communities Volunteer Outreach Worker Liz Davies out of Sandon House, on Taylor Street, Heywood.

Liz said: “Initially we would have about eight or nine regulars, but now we have around 24 every week.

“Since we started, we have had 1,003 people attend the sessions with many of those coming weekly. It is a really relaxed atmosphere, attracts men and women and members of all three services. Everyone gets along really well.”

So much so three of the regulars enjoyed a relaxing break at The Royal British Legion home Byng House in Southport.

The veterans have also attended summer balls, Rochdale Veterans’ Breakfast Club meetings and Remembrance events.

Clifford Dodgson, 83, who served from 1953-1980 with the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers was struggling to attend because his wheelchair was broken.

Liz was able to get him a new wheelchair from VIC enabling him to visit each week.

Clifford said: “I was struggling to get out of the house and within a week of asking Liz for help she got me a wheelchair.

“I was not going anywhere and was just stuck in never meeting anybody, but now I can get out.”

Due to the success of the coffee morning, they were able to get regimental blazers and ties for 13 of the veterans who had been reluctant to attend Remembrance parades because they felt they were not properly dressed.

The veterans in their blazers at Sandbag Cafe
The veterans in their blazers at Sandbag Cafe

The members have also formed an unofficial befriending service and look out for each other especially if someone has not attended for a couple of weeks.

Liz said: “We have six members who were socially isolated and were not leaving their home and three others who have Alzheimer’s, but their carers are able to bring them to the Sandbag and know that they are in a safe environment.

“I hoped it would be as good as this, but I never envisaged it would be this successful; it has astounded me. The Sandbag did so well that we introduced bacon butties as well as brews and biscuits.”

As Liz has had a complicated year with her daughter Lauren being in hospital three times with cystic fibrosis and multi organ failure, the veterans have also been a great support for her.

Lauren, 25, said: “Mum was able to come here every Tuesday and knowing everyone was asking after me was nice and it was good for me to know that someone was taking care of my mum.”

Engineering firm Balfour Beatty also generously tarmacked the whole of the front of Sandon House to create a better access for veterans and all users of the centre.

The Sandbag Café committee is now being formalised and in the New Year Greater Manchester Police trainees will be attending to get to know veterans and gain a better understanding of their needs.

The café is on every Tuesday morning between 10am and noon.

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