Betsy Jenny wellbeing café provides an invaluable service to the city by offering an informal pathway of mental health support to those in need.
It opened its doors earlier this year after a complete makeover of Elizabeth’s former restaurant, on Bridge Street downtown.
In addition to honoring the much-loved site’s ancient female name, Betsy Jenny has a special meaning for its owner, Steve Lane.
In 2018, the Sunderland businessman experienced unimaginable grief when his son Steve Jenner died of the flu, and it was counseling that helped him come to terms with the trauma.
Now, the memory of the famous 25-year-old, who has been affectionately known as Betsy since his elementary school days, lives in Betsy Jenny, who was also named after Steve’s parents, Jean and Kenny, who died shortly before their grandson.
It was a true labor of love for Steve who is keen to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, especially for men who sometimes find it difficult to access help.
In addition to being a 60-seat café, the site offers counseling and meeting rooms and is open to all, people who want to eat for those looking for mental health support but aren’t sure where to turn.
The final phase of the transformation this week saw the opening of the multipurpose meeting and luxury room, with Sunderland Mayor Cllr Harry Trueman cutting the ribbon.
The room is available for all types of groups such as therapy groups, art groups, yoga groups and the team at Betsy Jenny are looking for any groups that would like to use the space. It is also equipped with laptops for people who want to use them for training purposes.
Steve, who owns SJL Brickwork Ltd, said opening Betsy Jenny has been a long way to go, but it’s great to see it finally being put to use.
“This room complements the whole project and it was great to have the mayor, he is a really humble guy who supports the project,” Steve said.
“The opening of the luxury café has been remarkable and there are still a lot of people who don’t know we’re here, but we really encourage people to come and check it out.
“Those who visit and come daily really love the place and the idea behind it, and say it’s something much needed in Sunderland.”
Speaking about seeing his vision come true after a long journey of renovation, Steve said: “I am very proud, and the fact that my son and father’s name was in the cafe’s name makes me prouder than everyone else.
“Many people deal with breakdowns and difficulties in different ways. For me, I’ve always been a positive person and wanted to do something to give something back to Sunderland. The stigma around mental health is huge and I wanted to do my part to break it down.”
:: The Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Café on Bridge Street is open from 9am-4:30pm during the week and 9am-3:30pm on Saturdays. They will also open for lunch on Sunday.
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