When Alison Stephens serves coffee in the soft play café at Plymouth Methodist Central Hall with all the other volunteers, she’s living her dream – literally.
Ten years ago, the retired primary school teacher was awoken by a future vision of herself – complete with wrinkles and grey hair – serving coffee in a church hall.
She chuckles now as she remembers the dream, which she believes was divinely inspired.
‘I wasn’t sure at the time what it was about,’ she said. ‘But now it all makes sense.’
It took many years, and a lot of hard work by many church members, but when they opened their café eighteen months ago – with Alison as unpaid manager, and at the controls of the barista coffee machine – it was ‘as though it was meant to be’.
‘We started out with a hundred customers a week, with one staff member and a volunteer a day,’ said Alison, ‘and now we’re serving a thousand customers a week, seven staff and ten volunteers, and we’re still growing.’
The café is bringing in funding for the church, but, more importantly, it’s building relationships with local people.
‘People begin in the café,’ said Alison, ‘but many have started bringing their families to our monthly messy church, which has doubled in size, and now some are drifting to other things that we do. It’s definitely starting to bear fruit.’
The church’s youth administrator, Veronica Graham, said, ‘Alison has gone beyond any call of duty. She’s a true volunteer. She works with passion and tireless enthusiasm, seeking excellence in all that she does.’
Alison herself says she is ‘embarrassed’ by the award. ‘It’s very nice,’ she said, ‘but I’m one of many who give up their time and work hard to make things happen. It’s a privilege to serve God like this.’