‘The Hidden Gem’ is a shoppers dream.
Beautiful antique shelves, handcrafted coasters and candle holders, handmade bags and scarves and ornamental bird cages line the room.
The impressive home and garden products in this cosy shop wouldn’t look out of place on the shelves of John Lewis or Laura Ashley, but the truth behind the items is much more incredible.
Everything in The Hidden Gem has been handcrafted by students of Work Ltd – a Sheffield charity that works with adults with learning disabilities.
The students of Work Ltd run this site, with the help of its staff, cooking in the cafe, serving in the shop and creating its handmade items with the help of specialist teachers.
“It’s a truly incredible place,” said centre manager Glynis Philliskirk, who has worked with the charity for 15 years.
“It’s one of those places that, once you’ve been here and seen what it has to offer, you want to come back again and again.”
Work Ltd began 17 years ago in the city, with the idea of giving adults with learning disabilities somewhere to go and something to do.
Glynis added: “It’s important to them to have somewhere they can come to, like anybody else, where they can work and be useful. We teach them life skills and it’s wonderful to see how they blossom and grow.”
But life hasn’t always been easy for the charity. At its lowest point, Glynis and her partner Diane Wilson were trying to figure out how to keep the charity afloat with less than two thousand pounds in the bank.
“It wasn’t even enough to pay staff wages at that time, things seemed hopeless, but we never lost heart,” she said.
Instead Glynis – a devout Christian – put her faith in the work that she was doing and persevered.
“Somehow it worked, I don’t know how exactly, but we worked hard and dug in and made it work.
“There have been lots of ups and downs over the years, especially with the various economic dips, but we all believe in the importance of what we’re doing.”
Today the charity, on Ringinglow Road in Bents Green, is in good shape. Its annual turnover is a healthy six-figures and it has nearly 70 students a week through its doors.
“We’ve created a beautiful environment here,” Glynis added.
“There’s the lovely cafe and shop – where people can come and enjoy a cup of tea or try some of our homemade soups, sandwiches and cakes – and then browse our lovely products, the different craft areas, our kitchens where we’re providing cookery classes and just enjoy being at peace in this lovely, creative space.”
And Glynis, 53, is already planning for the future. With retirement on the horizon within the next 10 years, she has plans in place to ensure Work Ltd’s survival.
“I love this place – I’ve eaten, breathed and slept it since my first day and I now have a wonderful team of 13 or 14 staff, plus dozens of volunteers who make it better and stronger every day.
“Among this team is a handful of young, bright intelligent people who are the future of Work Ltd.”
But for now, Glynis isn’t going anywhere and, following a series of developments in the last couple of years, her only wish is to get more local people through the door to see what is being created.
“This is the perfect job, working with perfect people, in a place filled with love and happiness,” she explained.
The Hidden Gem, at Work Ltd, is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3.30pm or 4pm.
n For more information, visit www.workltd.org.uk