It was during a conversation with the League’s volunteer co-ordinator, Liz Hill where we were talking about the League’s cafe and coffee bar at Cannock Chase Hospital that I realised it was about time, well overdue in fact that I should actually visit the place.

The League’s mantra from top to bottom is that it’s always ‘about the people’.

I take that to mean customers, both hospital staff and patients and their families at the Cafe in Cannock or the coffee bars in Cannock, St Georges and County Hospital in Stafford.  Equally the League’s service users for supported accommodation in Stafford (and soon to be Cannock as well) and staff and volunteers delivering much needed services.

Indeed, it would be impossible to offer ‘retail service’ in hospital without wonderful volunteers. It’s a two way street, volunteering provides great value to volunteers themselves as much as those receiving the service.

But back to the convo with Liz, she wondered if I could do an interview with one of the cafe volunteers, a guy called Ben. I jumped at the opportunity and with a junior reporters notebook, very nice pen and the voice recorder app on my iPhone, I travelled to Cannock Chase Hospital.

I arrived, parked up (there’s a whole another piece to do on that!!) and made my way to the Friends Cafe.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the scope, the range of the cafe service; very professional I thought, with a full range of cooked to order food (I highly recommend the bacon bap and coffee), sandwiches, drinks and sweets.

Ben has been volunteering with the League for over 14 years, working three half days a week carrying out lots of different tasks to his customers, everything from ensuring there is a ready supply of salads to being ‘front of house staff’ delivering meals to doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff and of course to patients and their families.

Two things especially please Ben as he carries out his duties; he always enjoys getting feedback from his customers and enjoys conversations with his colleagues, especially his best friend Mel.

Ben says he is always busy and the time certainly flies during his three half days.

Outside of his volunteering with the League, Ben has been involved in rehearsal throughout the summer towards a run of The Little Shop of Horrors with the Seasons Theatre Company at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock.

Ben was involved in back stage work and thoroughly enjoyed his acting, singing and dancing role in the performances.

The show was dedicated to one of Ben’s friends, Jenny who passed in May 2018.

Ben will be on stage again at the Prince of Wales Theatre in November 2018, performing in ‘Be Our Guest’. Tickets are available from the theatre’s website here.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that the League is all about the people. I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Ben, I hope, dear reader that the next time you have occasion to visit the Friends Cafe that you’ll give him a wave from me.

All the best Ben, thank you for what you’re doing for your community.

p.s if you’d like to volunteer at a cafe or one of the coffee bars in Cannock and Stafford, you can get in touch with us here, on the volunteering web page