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'It's the heart of the community': Customers of Marks Gate café 'heartbroken' over closure plan

PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 June 2019

Staff and customers at St Mark's Church Centre's cafe described feeling heartbroken on finding out the eatery is closing. Picture: JON KING

Staff and customers at St Mark's Church Centre's cafe described feeling heartbroken on finding out the eatery is closing. Picture: JON KING

Archant

A decision to close a much loved community café has broken the hearts of its customers.

Catering manager Andy Parker. Picture: JON KINGCatering manager Andy Parker. Picture: JON KING

Catering manager Andy Parker was told the eatery at St Mark's Church Centre in Rose Lane would close and he would lose his job on Monday (June 17).

The cafeteria - which according to regulars is the only one in the area to offer cheaper meals for people in the area who can't afford to feed their families - is due to close on Friday (June 28).

A devastated Andy said: "The café is here for the community. It's a happy, friendly place. We're not here for profit. We're here to serve the community. It's a shame to see it go."

The café opened in 2016 after the site of the old St Mark's Church, opposite the Children's Centre Nursery and Marks Gate Junior and Infant schools, was redeveloped.

It fast became popular with parents after the school run.

Cleaner and mum of four, Kerry Lowing, of nearby Nash Road, is one of five staff members to lose their jobs.

"It is heartbreaking. Lots of people come here, many with mental health problems. I'm looking for another job but it's not easy at the moment," Kerry said.

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April Hayden, whose brother Ricky was stabbed to death outside his Chadwell Heath home, takes her little boy to the café every schoolday.

"Everyone helps you here. It's welcoming. When I'm having a bad day I sit and chat with the girls and they help me cope with life.

"It's the heart of the community."

Parishioner June Piper, of Padnell Road, cried when she heard it would close.

"Andy has put so much heart and soul into this place. There's nothing else on the estate. We're a forgotten part of the borough," she said.

Rev Tim Brampton explained funding had run out to keep Andy's role going but that part of the reason for the closure was a lack of customers.

"Andy has done a fantastic job in keeping it going and trying to bring people in," he said.

But the money needed to keep the doors open ran out a long time ago.

"We were robbing Peter to pay Paul," Rev Brampton said. "But what we can't do is financially ruin the church."

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