A STOURBRIDGE social enterprise restaurant that is helping to transform the lives of young people across the Black Country, was officially opened on Friday.
Vines cafe and restaurant on High Street, is the result of a partnership between Walsall based Vine Social Enterprises and Living Springs, the Stourton based charity that helps young teenage mums and vulnerable families.
Kerry Babb, aged 25, supervisor at the Stourbridge and Walsall Vines restaurants, told guests at the opening ceremony that getting involved with Vines almost four years ago, had changed her life.
She said she was struggling to find work as a hairdresser before she pursued the job opportunities available through Vines and has grown in confidence under the watchful eye of mentors.
Miss Babb said: "I was shy, lacking confidence and I wouldn't talk to anybody and I didn't even want to answer the phone. Now I like meeting new people, chatting to them and getting on with everybody. I can’t see myself being anywhere else, I love it."
In addition to providing a working environment for young people, Robert Chapman, chairman of Living Springs, said the charity would continue to offer counselling services in refurbished offices above the restaurant in a bid to get "closer to the community".
Kevin Davis, CEO of the Vine Trust Group, said the partnership of the organisations, which are both celebrating 25th anniversaries this year, would help "support young people and add some additional value to this part of the Black Country".
The venture impressed Dudley North MP Ian Austin, who said: "I think it's brilliant that they have opened this facility in Stourbridge. I have met some of the young people working here and heard how it has changed their lives. We should all get behind it and support this venture."
Helping young people find employment was a winning aspect of the project for Dudley Mayor, Councillor Alan Finch.
He said: "Creating jobs for young people will help the council in its vision to tackle unemployment. I look forward to seeing the benefit of this partnership for people in the whole of the borough."