An initiative that saw people with learning disabilities given the chance to host a pop-up cafe in Lichfield has led to a permanent job for two members of the group.

Ben Birchall with Tom Kirby, one of his new members of staff

The Shining Stars group sold ice cream with the Little Green Frog Cafe as part of the Lichfield Food Festival.

But the cafe’s owner Ben Birchall was so impressed with their efforts he decided to offer members of the team permanent paid work.

Ben said he was pleased to be able to make the move after developing links with the group.

Charlotte Aspley

“Our relationship with Shining Stars goes back over 12 months when the founder – the amazing Charlotte Aspley – was looking for people to support Mencap by running the Virtual London Marathon in 2020.

“I reluctantly got roped in and amazingly completed the marathon. Charlotte and I kept in touch and I learned more about the fantastic work she does at Shining Stars, enriching the lives of adults with learning disabilities.

“Next thing I know, I’m being asked if I’ll be a support runner for Team Mencap in the 2021 London Marathon next month. I was paired up with Tom Kirby and we first met to run a half marathon and see if we thought we could do a full marathon – we hit it of straight away and have run hundreds of miles together now in preparation for October.

“Knowing about the cafe, Charlotte asked whether there would be opportunities for us to give some of the members of Shining Stars a chance to gain some work experience in the café.

“We hatched a plan to work together on a stand at the Lichfield Food Festival to raise money for Shining Stars by selling ice creams. The guys were brilliant, so we talked further and decided to do a full takeover in September.

“We had a member of Little Green Frog staff on each of our key stations to support a Shining Stars member or two to serve the customers. They were amazing and the customers were really positive about the event.

“As a result of these sessions we will be employing my running partner Tom and another of the team to work in the cafe on an ongoing basis.

Ben Birchall

“The plan is to increase community spirit”

Little Green Frog Cafe was set up by Ben and his wife Debs in 2016 to create a space where small children could play safely while parents and carers could relax and enjoy a coffee and a chat.

Little Green Frog Cafe

It was named after their son Caleb’s favourite song.

The youngster was born in 2010 but died two years later after suffering a stroke.

The business has run a charity tipping scheme since it opened in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital where Caleb was cared for.

Ben said he was delighted to see the business able to support other good causes such as Shining Stars.

“We always wanted the cafe to be a platform from which we could support the local community.

“We try to support local businesses by giving them free and discounted use of the space in order to promote their business. We are also proud community partners of Nurture Community CIC.

“The plan is to help reduce isolation and increase community spirit by unlocking the untapped potential in our community.”

Ben Birchall

For more details about the Shining Stars group visit

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