The League of Friends for St Helier Hospital has opened the doors to its new look café, unveiling the results of a £70,000 refurbishment which promises to give the former tea bar a new lease of life.
Since opening in Ferguson House 15 years ago, the League of Friends tea bar has been a popular fixture at St Helier Hospital, serving countless patients, visitors and members of staff a wide range of refreshments and freshly made food. Val Brundle, Chairman of the League, explained that the improvement works have already made a big difference: "We are thrilled with how the café looks, and are already receiving some fantastic feedback from our customers and volunteers. We were really keen to invest in the tea bar to help modernise the environment and give the whole place a new lease of life, and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved!
"We thought a lot about what we needed, as well as what our customers would like from the facility, so have invested in a range of new equipment and made improvements to the fabric of the café by replacing the flooring and installing new lighting. As well as new fridges, carefully designed preparation areas and updated counter displays, we have been able to open up the area and make the café more spacious and comfortable than before. We are all excited about the results of the refurbishment, and I'd like to thank everyone who helped make this possible, particularly our volunteer team, the porters and the maintenance staff at the hospital."
If the response on the day of re-opening was anything to go by, the refurbishment promises to be a huge success as customers were queuing up outside to get a look at the revamped café, and get their hands on a freshly made up of tea. Ruby Miniandee, a member of staff in Gastroenterology at St Helier Hospital, was the first customer to visit: "Everyone in the office loves the café, so I'm delighted that it's open again and to see it looking so wonderful. It's a huge improvement on the old tea bar and I can't wait to come back with my colleagues for a nice cup of tea and maybe even a bun!"
Charlotte Hall, Chief Nurse and board-level lead for volunteering at the trust, said: "I am delighted that the Loft Café is now open and looking better than ever! I hardly recognised the space when I visited and have to say that the hard work really has paid off. The League and all its volunteers work extremely hard to support our hospitals and provide services to our patients, visitors and staff, for which we remain incredibly grateful."
Pat Smith, a volunteer with the League and lead for the café, said: "It's been very hard graft to get everything ready to re-open, but it was worth it! We are so thrilled with the new equipment and the wonderful job everyone involved has done to get everything looking so good. The café is now a lovely, bright place for our customers and volunteers to spend time, and we look forward to welcoming people and showing off our new look!"
As if the refurbishment wasn't enough, in the spirit of change, the League decided that the tea bar should also be given a new name. "It seemed fitting that we should mark the start of a new era by giving the tea bar a new name to go with its fresh new look, so we decided to run a competition to help find a new name. We received over 40 submissions from colleagues across the trust, including some very amusing suggestions", explained Val. In the end, the League committee settled on the Loft Café or, to give it its full name, the League of Friends Tea Café. Keith Hider, Head of Strategy, was chosen as the winning entrant, receiving a £25 gift voucher which he kindly donated back to the League for use as a prize in their forthcoming Christmas raffle.
The Loft Café, which is open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, will have its official opening later in the year.
The Loft Café is run entirely by unpaid volunteers, and the refurbishment was funded by money the League of Friends for St Helier Hospital raised through the hospital shop and former tea bar. To find out more about the work of the League and to get involved by becoming a member or through volunteering, please visit www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/get-involved or email firstname.lastname@example.org.