Chatty Café patrons pay it forward

July 9, 2021 BY

Postcard pride: Kelsie White, Lilly Wright and Pauline O’Shannessy-Dowling were proud to donate artwork to the initiative, which they hope will continue long-term. Photos: EDWINA WILLIAMS

WHEN A Pot of Courage Café signed onto the national Chatty Café Scheme, the venue ensured it had a large inclusive and accessible ‘Chatty Table.’

A Pot of Courage Café’s founder and coordinator Shiree Pilkinton said each Tuesday and Wednesday, from 9am to 11am, anyone who’d like to meet new people or combat loneliness is welcome to enjoy a cuppa at the communal table.

Although conversation is free, Ms Pilkinton recognised having a chat over a cup of tea or coffee, or a snack, isn’t so achievable for everyone.

“It’s all very well to welcome people to take a seat at the table, but if they’re experiencing financial hardship, where is their place at the table?” she said.

Knowing Ballarat as a “very generous and supportive community,” the café, in partnership with the Ballarat East Neighbourhood House have launched a pay it forward initiative.

A Pot of Courage patrons can fund a drink or meal, or both, for someone who comes to the café afterwards and needs financial assistance. They enjoy it in the café or take it away.

“Those who are able to pay it forward can choose from three levels of gifting,” Ms Pilkinton said.

Those ‘paying it forward’ can leave a kind note on the postcard for its future receiver.

“Five dollars covers a large coffee, hot chocolate or chai, $12 covers cake on top of the beverage, and $15 covers a meal.

“Donors choose from our seven postcard designs, write a message, and the donation value on the back of the card, then those experiencing hardship can choose one of these postcards and use it as payment.”

Local artists were invited by the café and BENH to contribute new or old colourful designs for the postcards, which not only make them pop on the pay it forward wall, but ensure they’re special for people to keep.

Creatives Pauline O’Shannessy-Dowling, Kelsie White and Lilly Wright – also A Pot of Courage’s kitchen café coordinator – have their artwork featured on the postcards.

“Those experiencing hardship can… take home their little piece of artwork, and a message from a caring stranger,” Ms Pilkinton said.

The postcards can be redeemed any time the café is open, and some have been designed to allow those giving, or receiving, to colour them in.

“Not everyone loves chatting or talking, so people can just do a bit of colouring, maybe partake in the conversation, or maybe not,” O’Shannessy-Dowling said.

“Imagine knowing you can go somewhere safe and get a nice warm meal if you’ve hit hard times.”

White created watercolour pieces specifically for the project in the last lockdown, and scanned O’Shannessy-Dowling’s and Wright’s artworks ahead of card design and printing.

“It was nice to have this project to sink my teeth into. It felt so full-of-heart and lovely to be creative at that time,” White said.

“I’ve noticed that once people hear about this, they really want to support it, be a part of it, and give back to the community which has faced so much over the last year.

“Everyone can be a part of it, whether receiving or giving, and I’m sure the wall will be soon full of postcards.”

BENH manager Sarah Greenwood-Smith said the initiative will increase awareness of Barkly Square; the community hub where the Neighbourhood House and café are based.

“It helps people to know that we’re here, and the services and activities that we offer. The café is the heart of the building,” she said.

“We’re so grateful to the artists for generously donating their beautiful artwork.”