A Brief Reflection

A Brief Reflection On The Sycamore Tree Coffee Shop

185 Burgundy Street, Heidelberg

August 1986-August 2016

As we celebrate 30 years since the Sycamore Tree Coffee Shop opened, it is appropriate that we reflect on all the coffee shop has acheived since it opened with great excitement on August 6th 1986.

Reading back over the some early minutes of meetings it is clear there was tremendous loyalty and hard work provided by many from Heidelberg-East Ivanhoe Uniting Church. Elizabeth Lowson, Keith Edgar, David Caple, Anne and Richard Burgess, and Ann Rodger are among the pioneers in this adventure to set up a street front coffee shop as an outreach to the community.

Tribute must be paid to those departed from this life for their vision, tenacity and support for setting the shop on a firm foundation especially in the early years. Percy Cleland, Freda Laming, Betty Collins, Flora Lowe, Bill Beattie, and Horrie and Betty Ward are few names that come to mind.

During their time with us, many of our ministers have played an active role in the coffee shop. Rev. Keith Kynoch initially helped with the construction of the coffee shop furniture, still being used 30 years later; Rev. Graham Lehmann regularly attended ‘Friday night coffee shop’ and regularly grabbed 40 winks at the corner of the table during the evening; Rev. Dr Peter Blackwood and the late Rev. Wesley Lutton both worked as volunteers and Rev. Sani Vaeluaga brought his guitar to Friday night gatherings. All our ministers have actively supported the coffee shop, and well and truly contributed to its financial wellbeing.

Our Sycamore Tree Coffee Shop managers have been: Trish Kennedy, Rae Officer, Ruth Watson, Chris Waller, Josie Drake, Kyla Price, Glenis Middleton, Laurel Montgomery, Lailah Whelan, and for the last five years, David Landis-Morse. All have been in tune with the aims of the coffee shop, capable, compassionate, understanding, encouraging and unflappable people, though at busy times in the shop their flappability has been tested.

Just as the drop-in centre has evolved from being a meeting place for young mothers and their babies, to the enormous mission it now fulfils providing a stimulating program by dedicated volunteers for those living with disabilities, so too has the Sycamore Tree evolved. As well as providing the daytime coffee shop service, the coffee shop has also provided an evening meeting place for church groups, Friday night coffee shop nights when those attending could play music, chat with each other and eat toasted raisin bread. There has been Advocacy and Empowerment evenings providing opportunity for discussion and music. ‘The Cafe of Dangerous Ideas’ currently meets monthly to listen to a speaker or discuss social issues.

From being the simple soup, sandwiches and pies shop to where everyone was encouraged to learn how to use ‘the coffee machine’, David has moved us into the 21st century by providing excellent coffee made by volunteer baristas using STREATS coffee, an organisation actively supportive of homeless young people.

In the 30 years since we opened, we have donated thousands to community organisations. To donate profits from the coffee shop to local community organisations has always been one of our promises.

Highest tribute must be paid to our volunteers from both the Uniting Church and the community. Some have been with us since the shop began in 1986, others have volunteered weekly, fortnightly or monthly giving generously of their service as their time permitted. We have shared fun and fellowship, troubles and struggles together. How we have appreciated friendships formed and sustained in the Sycamore Tree Coffee Shop! On our last day of trading before holidays at the end of the year we’ve enjoyed getting together at our Christmas party afternoon tea style.

Many regular customers have become our friends, many people returning for appointments at the Austin Hospital or Warringal have become our friends. We have shared their health journeys, some with happy outcomes, some with sad.

Nan Caple has been the chair of the Sycamore Tree Coffee Shop management committee for the last 16 years, efficient, calm, and wise. Bob Walsh has been our property stalwart for 13 years, supportive of all our volunteers and managers over those years, and maintaining our property – a fulltime volunteer extraordinaire! Our very sincere thanks to both these special people.

Zaccheus came down from the sycamore tree to extend hospitality to Jesus. Our light, bright, warm and welcoming Sycamore Tree has extended hospitality to our community for 30 years.