Cafe pays it forward

Home Ground Café located in Mornington is a café with a difference.

Opened in 2017 with the support of Baptcare’s Community Grants program providing funding of $45,000, Home Ground is a social enterprise that supports young people. From inception to realisation the Café has been a space which focuses on vocational training, and employment placing to many local enterprises, and health equity access for better diet and food practises.

The daily operations of the café in the middle of a disadvantaged neighbourhood combined with the Café’s strong Pay it Forward model has seen this social enterprise become a second home and space for connection and belonging for a diverse range of local community members.

Sam Keck, Owner of Commonfolk Coffee Co which supplies the coffee at Home Ground says hospitality and tourism has the highest skills shortage of any sector on the Mornington Peninsula, and at the same time has the highest youth unemployment in Victoria.

“Right now, in Australia, there is a real disparity between entry level unskilled workers and skilled hospitality jobs that need to be filled but no mechanism in the middle able to train these people. Businesses are left struggling to find actual vocational experience. Home Ground bridges that gap between unskilled workers and providing the skills necessary to fill the roles within hospitality,” said Sam Keck.

“Social enterprises like Home Ground are a really important ingredient in the community and the business landscape because of what they bring as a consistent, sustainable change maker and influence for change.

“It is vital for us to train and support people to engage in hospitality, providing them with opportunities and showing them there are viable careers to be had within the industry,” said Sam Keck.

Home Ground partners with Commonfolk Coffee Co to connect with local industry leaders to provide onsite experience to its trainees and offers a glimpse into some of the best restaurants and cafés on the Peninsula. Upon completion of their training, trainees will be supported to find lasting employment.

“Not only does Home Ground offer pretty special coffee, it’s also coffee that helps change lives and offers young people the training to become the best baristas in the world” said Sam Keck.

Another aim of Home Ground is to be a place to hang out, meet new people, and share a sense of belonging, connectedness and friendship. Home Ground has been designed in consultation with the local community creating an aesthetic that fits the community and provides them with a sense of ownership.

Sam Hearn, Youth Worker, Board Member and Councillor says this is evident on a daily basis.

“What I love when you come to Home Ground is seeing a whole bunch of people from all walks of life eating, drinking coffee, having a good chat and enjoying themselves. The icing on the cake is knowing, that for our staff, this is their first opportunity in hospitality and that they are the reason our customers are smiling,” said Sam Hearn.

Home Ground is also working with local community gardens and growers to focus menu items on locally sourced and grown produce, developing a supply chain that aims to have a positive environmental and social impact. The menu is accessible but healthy and they are keen to offer community cooking and meals that give people from the local community an opportunity to share skills and create awareness around healthy eating.

Key Youth Trainee and Employee, Joel Furneaux couldn’t be happier at being given the opportunity to develop his skills at Home Ground.

“Cafes in general have a wonderful equalising force in society where everyone from all walks of life can come and be equal. At Home Ground, your financial situation doesn’t determine whether you can or can’t come through the door. I think that’s a really beautiful place to create equality and a space of harmony,” said Joel.

Home Ground is just one of many that Baptcare has aided over the years through the Community Grants project, helping many realise long held dreams.

“The support that Baptcare provided Home Ground was amazing. We wouldn’t have begun the project without the funding we received from Baptcare. It provided 25 per cent of our initial start up need,” said Sam Hearn.

“This has enabled us to develop a model that has now reached a place of sustainability from our own revenue that ensures we can continue to transform our community and the lives of young people week in, week out, and for many years to come!” said Sam Hearn.

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