Bray People

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The Bridge Cafe is designed and run with the welfare of the local community very much in mind. As Mary Fogarty discovered it's a place of good food and good turns.

A generous benefactor bought a derelict pub on Bray's Castle Street at an Allsop auction and gifted it to Crinkin Church, with the sole condition that the building be used for community outreach.

There now stands the 'Bridge' café, a meeting place, lunch spot, and community hub with a unique not-for-profit approach.

While those who are hungry can get a hot cuppa and some soup, or even someone to talk to, others who buy a tasty lunch at the Bridge will help provide funding for those provisions.

The café recently signed up to the 'suspended coffee' movement, whereby a customer can choose to pay €2 in advance for a cup of coffee for someone, in a small gesture of good will and humanity.

They also held Christmas dinner last year, and provide sandwiches for a weekly initiative in Bray called the 'No Bucks Mobile Café.'

The bus comes from Tiglin once a week and anyone who needs something to eat or a hot drink can come along on the evening. The bus also carries clothing and blankets for the homeless and plenty of friendly ears.

Manager Naomi Fitzpatrick happened upon an advertisement for her current position, and knew she was made for the job.

Her background is in theology and social practices, including an internship with Ruhama - a body which supports women affected by prostitution and human trafficking. She cares deeply about people and strongly believes in helping others without judgement.

Her enthusiasm for the work, and for reaching out to people in need, is infectious, as are her formidable work ethic and determination.

'Yes we have a Christian ethos, however everyone is welcome here without having anyone's beliefs pushed upon them,' she said, adding that many of the team of volunteers and staff are not Christians.

Religion and spiritual matters will never be forced on a friend, team member or customer at The Bridge, however if anyone wishes to fill out one of their little prayer cards and leave it in a box there, their special intentions will be prayed for - be it good luck in an exam, peace of mind, or better health. Churches of all denominations in the area are supportive of the initiative in the spirit of ecumenicalism and doing good works.

Formerly Kavanagh's bar, the premises at 1 Castle Street has retained a warm and inviting interior, with good food, teas and coffees, and plenty of live music and regular events taking place. A recent open mic night was a huge success and will be repeated towards the end of June, while this Thursday evening will see an acoustic music session on to raise money for an intern for Greystones Presbyterian Church.

A Chinese group meets weekly as an outreach to Bray's significantly high Chinese population. There is an opportunity for foreign nationals to enjoy traditional Irish music and practice speaking English at the 'International Student Café' every Friday evening and some local churches use the Bridge for their mid-week meetings.

The unusual 'pub with no beer' is up and running, with the main goal to engage and connect with people on a real level and to link those who need help in with local services, community events, church activities and churches.

The original character of the pub has been retained to provide an alternative for people who enjoy the pub atmosphere, but without the influence of alcohol.

Naomi hopes that The Bridge will become a place where families and individuals can enjoy sporting events, social nights and more in a tee-total environment.

It's currently open seven days a week, and later until 8.30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and later again on event nights, with carvery on a Sunday from 12 midday until 5 p.m. They also hope to further extend those opening hours in the coming months and have invited a representative of 'Flux' alcohol-free social nights to come along and chat to them about making the most of their venue.

'Babies at the Bridge' is a group for babies not yet toddling which takes place every Tuesday morning from 10.30 a.m. to 12 midday in an upstairs space and is proving extremely popular.

'The Bridge would like to be able to provide local employment down the line,' said Naomi. 'We would also like to support local charities and use our venue to host fundraising events to help promote charities and generate finances, especially during these difficult economic times. We see The Bridge as more than just a café; we exist to serve the people of Bray and the wider local community by providing a warm, inspiring and relaxing atmosphere.'

For more information go to www.thebridgecafe.ie or find them on Facebook.

Bray People