Sowing seeds and trees at Me ‘n’ U

imageOlympic Torch bearer, Secret Millionaire personality and Hamara community award winner Yvonne Crowther is busy running her cafe on Cardinal Road in Beeston.

The cafe has been open over a year now and is a hub for locals to enjoy food and a chat. It was funded by the secret millionaire as a youth enterprise cafe. I’m drawn to the sofa along the back wall. Apparently it’s so comfy you can’t move once you’ve sat down, so I didn’t. For half an hour Yvonne filled me in on all the happenings at Me ‘n’ U. We talked about the new environmental proposal for the community,  volunteering, plans for Christmas Day and the new pay as you feel cafe – inspired by The Real Junk Food Project in Armley.

Displayed above me behind the sofa is a set of photos of trees and a public consultation form. Yvonne was successful in applying for 420 trees from the Woodland Trust. I had heard about this and was really intrigued: what was she going to do with all the trees? She answered “They’re going to be planted all around the Cardinals of course!” I then realised, there are no trees around here, this is something that could really bring in some colour around here. Yvonne is passionate about this new venture, not just trees but what they do for people and the environment. I read the description of the trees, there’s: Tibetan Cherry, Ornamental Pear and Himalayan Birch to name a few. I quickly scribbled my name and ‘I love trees’ as my comment.

The current proposal by Yvonne and has got support from Leeds City Council conservation team and is part of the green corridor in Leeds. Yvonne is now applying for more funding from Green Streets to help build a sporting nature trail in the area around the Cardinals. This was inspired by the Olympics and has been growing into a big idea ever since. Yvonne hopes to create an aspirational exercise course, which helps mirrors the stages of life. Picture a long jump, which is measured by: birth, nursery, school, college, university. Separately a path branches off into three directions:  College? University? Benefits? She then goes on to describe of a ‘love bench’ made from bricks, this is time for reflection and contemplating. There’s a weeping willow tree to one side (for sad times) and a cherry blossom to the other for looking forward to the future.

Being part of the trail and nature will help people think what they want to do with their life. These are all original thoughts from Yvonne but which is supported by the members of the community. Explaining this in writing helps describe how people will feel when they experience and walk through it.  She talks about bending willow sticks being made into hoops they’re the hoops of life everyone goes through at some point. (I know sometimes my life has felt like I’m running a steeple chase!)

Back to the cafe. Open 6 days a week Yvonne is helped by local volunteers, Tracey, a gentleman who travels from Bradford everyday and community PCSO, Kirsty Johnson. However, she is looking at getting more financial backing to start to train and employ people. The cafe helps locals seek help and with Yvonne’s contacts she is able to help people fill in application forms and refer to relevant agencies. They also host a ‘Knit and Natter’ group every Thursday s from 1-4pm.

More recently Yvonne has become associated with The Real Junk Food project in Armley. This is a successful cafe run in Armley and uses surplus food from supermarkets. The food is mainly vegetables and baking ingredients so they now provide hearty warm meals for a pay as you feel price.

Yvonne and volunteers are providing a Christmas dinner on Christmas day. Volunteers: Tracy, Kirsty and her partner will be cooking. This is a closed door event specifically geared towards elderly and isolated people. If you wish to find out more please contact Yvonne on (0113) 277 7779 or 07903 360394. The team are also delivering a meal to Cardinal Court and volunteers are sorted for this too.

I will be back to Me ‘n’ U cafe in the New Year to sample some pay as you feel food with the kids. I will also be reporting on developments with the funding for the nature trail too.