THE SUN shone down on the first anniversary celebrations for Leyland’s Veterans’ Café.
More than 70 veterans and their families gathered on Saturday to celebrate the phenomenal success of the café’s first year, with some travelling from as far as Newcastle for the day.
A short service was held outside the café at Rococco coffee shop, Chapel Brow, with veterans Alan Burgess and Trevor Burton reading out a prayer and the Ode of Remembrance. Bugler Nichola Gates from Lostock Hall Brass Band sounded the last post, with a minute’s silence held for those who fought and died for their country.
The party then enjoyed a birthday cake made especially for the occasion by Keiran O’Neill and service users at Brothers of Charity.
“When we first started this 12 months ago I never thought we’d be where we are now,” said founder Phil Burton, 42, a former Royal Artillery Lance Bombardier and dad-of- three from Leyland.
“The number of people’s lives we’ve changed is phenomenal. We’ve got veterans back into employment and we’ve got people the mental health support they need and deserve. But for me, the best thing is just seeing the smile on people’s faces. This café brings us back to our roots and makes us feel that we are somebody again. We are veterans, we are a family.”
Phil set up the cafe to help others after struggling with symptoms of PTSD when he came out of the Army. The idea was to create a place for veterans to meet up every fortnight and enjoy a chat over a bacon butty and a brew.
But the café, at Rococco, which is run by the Brothers of Charity Services in Lancashire, provides much more. It also helps veterans to overcome social isolation by allowing them to meet different people and by sparking new friendships. Some have also been able to access services from charities and the NHS that they were unaware of.
Over the last 12 months founder Phil Burton has received countless awards – including a Point of Light Award from Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
Other successes over the past 12 months include re-uniting long-lost family members after the café featured on ITV Granada Reports, and helping six veterans back into employment.
The Veterans’ Café is sponsored by BAE Systems and supported by South Ribble Borough Council.
South Ribble Borough Council Leader Cllr Peter Mullineaux said: “It’s very clear that there was a need for something like this. We must not forget these brave men and women and the sacrifices they have made for their country.”
Alex Moore, Communications Director at BAE Systems added: “The Veterans’ Café provides a fantastic service to our local heroes and helps ensure they receive the support they undoubtedly deserve.”
South Ribble Borough Council signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant in November 2012, promising a commitment to help veterans and those currently serving in the military with their family life, housing, health, skills and employment.
The Veterans’ Café runs on the first and third Saturdays of every month, 10am to 1pm, at Roccoco, Chapel Brow, Leyland.
For more information call Howard Anthony, South Ribble Partnership Manager, on 01772 625546.
Main picture: Founder Phil Burton cuts the cake with Mayor of South Ribble Councillor Mick Titherington.
Submitted by South Ribble Borough Council