15/06/2018 10:06 BST | Updated 15/06/2018 10:06 BST

Mental Health Café Inundated With Donations After Tip And Charity Boxes Stolen

The day after the robbery, the shop's manager received £100 through the letterbox. And that was just the beginning...

An ice cream parlour and vegetarian café in Whitstable, Kent, has received numerous donations from locals after its tips jar and charity box were stolen.

Lynne Forester, manager at Revival Ice Cream Parlour and Veggie Bar, was on her own in the parlour at the end of May when two women came in and were being very distracting. The next thing she knew, the tips jar and charity box - both of which were due to be emptied at the end of the day - had vanished. 

“I was upset and angry,” Lynne recalls. “It makes you feel really vulnerable.” 

The ice cream parlour is different from other Whitstable eateries as it is a social enterprise owned by the mental health charity Mind in Bexley. Any profit made goes straight back into improving mental health services in the area.

Lynne Forester
Revival parlour in Whitstable

By day, staff serve up healthy dishes. “It’s all freshly cooked and locally sourced - everything is made here on the premises, except the ice cream,” says Lynne. By night, the parlour becomes a safe space for mental health groups to meet, and a counsellor who uses the space to help people. The non-profit also runs a ‘Pay It Forward’ scheme where customers donate to a fund, so that anyone experiencing food poverty can have a meal and a hot drink.

There are 18 staff who work at Revival, many are part-time while also attending school, college or university. Some of the staff have mental health issues themselves. “The tips jar obviously goes to the staff and it’s something they work really hard for,” says Lynne. “So yeah it [the theft] was upsetting. It does make you feel slightly violated.”

After the ordeal Lynne put a post on Facebook to warn other shopkeepers about what had happened. But it fuelled a desire to help. “It was just phenomenal,” says Lynne. “I unlocked the door the next morning and found an envelope had been posted through the letterbox with a card, totally anonymous, and £100 in it.

“Then within about half an hour, a gentleman walked in and told me his wife had told him what had happened - she’d obviously seen it on social media - and his children loved coming here. He didn’t think either the charity or the staff should be out of pocket by what happened, so he handed me another £100.”

“We had various donations of different amounts: a little girl came in with her mum, she said she wanted to give us £5.”

Unfortunately the perpetrators were never caught and the money was never retrieved. For security reasons, the parlour has since been forced to chain its charity box and tip box to the counter. Yet despite all of this, Lynne feels reassured by the kindness of those who have stepped up to help. “It’s very heartwarming and it makes you realise that there’s a very good community out there and people do genuinely care,” she says. “It almost gives you a sense of security.”

As for the anonymous donor, Lynne can’t begin to express her gratitude: “It was unbelievably generous and totally unexpected,” she says. “It was really heartwarming and we just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

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