Plymouth Café worker honoured for her support to vulnerable customers during Covid-19 pandemic.

Leading social enterprise Moments Café has been awarded a place by Social Enterprise UK on their national Roll of Honour, which this year replaced their annual awards ceremony. The work of Café assistant Anne-Marie Mills in response to the Covid-19 crisis was given a special mention in the celebration of the ‘heroes’ of the past year.

Anne-Marie has been having regular phone conversations with vulnerable customers since the first lockdown was put in place. With the help of the café team, over 600 support calls have been made since March, as well as weekly zoom group ‘Coffee and Catchup’ session with groups of customers.

Anne-Marie said: “At this time it’s very easy to feel isolated and lonely so it’s important to reach out and make sure others don’t feel alone. I know what it’s like from personal experience and I don’t like the thought of other people feeling the same.”

Regular Café customer Alex lives alone and experienced loneliness and isolation after losing her husband and daughter. In her regular visits to the Café, Alex says the team have always lifted her spirits and that has continued even when the Café has been forced to close in lockdown.

Alex said: “The phone calls have been brilliant. There have been days when I’m quite down but hearing somebody on the end of the phone really picks you up. The staff taking the time out of their day to talk to me really means the world.

Alex paid tribute to Anne-Marie, saying: “Anne-Marie is so good at noticing if someone is feeling down, however busy she is. Nothing is ever too much trouble for her and she always goes above and beyond to make sure everybody else around her is happy.”

Joint CEO, Kate Smith was chosen to speak about the work of Moments at a virtual event this week that was joined by 1,000 social enterprise businesses and individuals from across the UK. It was hosted by actor and comedian Chris Addison, best-known for his comedy shows and as a panellist on Mock the Week. The Roll of Honour recognised individuals and businesses which have demonstrated strength, passion and resilience over the course of an extremely challenging year.

Anne-Marie says her own personal journey from loneliness and isolation helped her to understand others in that situation.

She says: “Before joining Moments Café, my life was very different. I had been out of work for 15 years as a full-time carer for my mum. After she passed away, I really felt like I had no purpose – I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I started out by volunteering and now work 20 hours a week. I have a real sense of purpose and so much more confidence – I feel better about myself and life.”

Support for our most vulnerable customers was important to the Café team who recognised the huge need for human connection in the current very difficult situation and the positive difference they could make by keeping that connection.

Emma Oxland, Moments Café Manager said: “We are always mindful that when a customer visits the café, we may be the only people they talk to that day. Having to close the café meant our customers would not have those friendly chats and would potentially not be seeing or talking to anyone. With this in mind, it was important to us that we continued to have those conversations to keep everyone feeling connected and less isolated.”