The Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Café in Sunderland, founded by Steven Lynn in memory of his late son, is facing a critical need for volunteers to ensure its operation. Lynn established the café as a means of offering free mental health support to the community, with food and drink sales covering expenses. However, the primary focus remains on providing a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals in need. Despite opening its doors in 2021, the café has struggled to gain widespread attention, and Lynn hopes that the upcoming holiday season will bring more visitors who may be experiencing heightened feelings of loneliness.
Running the café has proven to be a financial challenge for Lynn, a former construction worker. To sustain its operation, he has taken on multiple roles, including managing the kitchen, serving customers, washing dishes, and providing mental health support. The café offers various sessions, ranging from counseling and therapy to yoga and a confidential “listening ear” service. The ambiance is deliberately relaxed and inviting, designed to create an environment where anyone can seek help and support. Lynn’s ultimate goal is to enhance people’s lives by offering affordable food options and free activities.
The name of the café, the Betsy Jenny, holds deep significance for Lynn. It combines his son’s nickname, Betsy, with the names of his late parents, Jean and Kenny. Tragically, Lynn’s son passed away at the age of 25 after contracting the flu and falling seriously ill. The café stands as a tribute to his son, as well as a way of honoring his parents’ profound influence on his life. Lynn fondly remembers his son as a kind-hearted and humorous individual and deeply grieves his loss. By establishing the café, Lynn aims to give back to the community and create a positive impact.
Ricky Richardson, a visitor to the café, shared his personal experience of how it helped him overcome his neurodiversity challenges. He particularly encourages men to visit the café, emphasizing the absence of judgment, negativity, or stigma associated with seeking support there. Lynn remains hopeful that through increased visibility and volunteer support, the Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Café can continue providing vital mental health services to the people of Sunderland.