Announcing ITVET’s Nominated Charity of the Year

Wiggly Willow Cafe, Bishops Stortford. Syd Perry with members of the social club. The club is going for charitable status. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (13704855)

ITVET’s core values and purpose are to prioritise sustainability, investing in our team and our local community. We want to actively make a difference through our actions. Therefore, we are thrilled to announce that Wiggly Willow is ITVET’s nominated cause for 2021! Sitting within the heart of our local community, Wiggly Willow is an incredible not-for-profit organisation that we are delighted to be working with. They run an affordably priced café that focuses on supporting adults with special educational needs, delivering low-cost training within the community. They enable the people they support to gain valuable life skills, training and work experience that deeply enriches their lives in so many ways.  

This year, we will be working closely with them, by sharing our digital skills and resources, to support their IT systems and network connectivity. We are also focusing our fundraising efforts on our partner during 2021. During the year, our team are planning to host a number of events in aid of Wiggly Willow.  

Richard Fountain, CEO of ITVET shared his feelings on our valued partnership… “We are so pleased to be working with Wiggly Willow this year. We believe that the work they do is invaluable and helps people that are often overlooked or forgotten in the not-for-profit sphere. The fact that they provide training and support which actively enables people with learning difficulties to gain meaningful employment and life skills makes such a difference. It’s incredible to see how they are enriching people’s lives within our community of Bishop’s Stortford and makes it an honour for us to be able to support them.” 

The History of Wiggly Willow  

In March 2018,The Café’s Owner, Sid Perry started Wiggly Willow. Sid has been caring for people with learning disabilities since an early age and has previously worked in Mencap’s Grove Cottage in a managerial role. With the help of some kind volunteers, Sid acquired a lease and opened up the café on a charitable basis. It did not take long to flourish!  

By mid-2019, the café was proving a success, needing 3 new staff members, as it continued to grow.Wiggly Willow registered with East Herts Council “Framework” to provide services directly to their clients with learning disabilities. These services provide phenomenal support and a chance for all those who attend to socialise and learn new skills. 

At the Heart of Our Community 

Driving up Hockerill Street, it is hard to miss Wiggly Willow’s bright green signage with their mantra: “More Than Just a Coffee Shop”. We couldn’t agree more. There is both an eat-in and takeaway menu. The coffee shop has a delicious array of homemade food, (we recommend a large slice of their chocolate sponge cake!) and hot drinks. It also provides a multitude of services that are enriching our community.  

Wiggly Willow’s Services: 

  • Work Experience – There are around 2 people who are given support to deliver kitchen services every day. This has been very successful with many people moving on to hold down permanent jobs when they complete their training. As part of their work experience, their clients work 1-1 alongside staff members to learn all aspects of working in a coffee shop. It is a very relaxed environment, they work at their own pace. From this work experience, practical skills are learned including health and safety, preparing food, and customer service. 
  • Day Services – Every day, Wiggly Willow provides a different training service. These day services focus on education and life skills. There are also a variety of physical activities aiming to promote personal development, physical and mental well-being. These include art club, money skills, keep fit class, and many more.  
  • Holidays – Each year, Wiggly Willow organises various day trips to different locations. There is also an activity-based holiday every year for 30 clients. Later this year they are heading off to Gunton Hall in Lowesoft! They purchased a minibus last year for their trips.   
  • Courses – For £20 you can sign up for a course that comes with lunch! Wiggly Willow has qualified trainers offering the courses of Makaton, first aid, manual handling and safeguarding. They also have free parent and carer groups. 

Wiggly Willow’s Community:  

Inside Wiggly Willow 

What makes Wiggy Willow so special is how they promote community amongst clients and staff. The courses they provide include lunch to gather everyone together. This has been fundamental for the creation of multiple friendships. Two people even got married, who had met each other in Wiggly Willow!   

When walking through the door, whether to attend a course or to buy a coffee, you are always greeted with a smile. It is considered a home to many people who attend. One client described how since coming to Wiggly Willow, her confidence has grown immensely. So much so that she has used this confidence to pursue her hobby of music and DJing.  

Their Kind Work Within Our Wider Community  

Wiggly Willow goes above and beyond for our local community. So many people are impacted by the work they do. This includes those with learning disabilities, parents, carers, the customers of the coffee shop, and people who were vulnerable through the Covid19 pandemic. During the coronavirus lockdowns, they kept morale high in our local community through their team singing “We’ll Meet Again” on the piano. They delivered homemade Christmas dinners to people who had to self-isolate.  

We are very grateful for all Wiggly Willow do. This is why we feel so privileged to have them as our team’s nominated cause of the year! We are looking forward to working with them. Take a look at Wiggly Willow’s website to find out more about them. You can also read about the IT services ITVET provide here.