‘Bridlington is an amazing place with a lot to offer’

John Dixon at the new Ark cafe
John Dixon at the new Ark cafe

Four years ago, John Dixon’s life turned around completely and as he says ‘instead of building buildings, I am trying to build people’.

John had a high-flying and well-paid job in the construction industry, but gave it up to give something back to the Bridlington community and he has not regretted a minute of it.

John Dixon with some of the team of volunteers Michelle Jackson, Lesley Gaine and Pippa Rainey

John Dixon with some of the team of volunteers Michelle Jackson, Lesley Gaine and Pippa Rainey

He is the manager of Christ Church Community Hub, a building in Prospect Street which was converted from a carpet shop earlier this year.

He said: “We got this building in May. Christ Church Community Services, which is run from the Quay Centre, had always wanted to have somewhere as a community hub, a one-stop shop for peoplem who could use our services.

“We were fortunate that we were able to obtain the building and we refurbished it in three-and-a-half weeks.

“We were able to amlgamate the Todz children’s shop and our furniture store which has been at a variety of locations.

“It is an ideal location for us, right next to the church, because it allows us to have a connection. And we know some people don’t feel comfortable stepping into a church environment but they will come and see us here.”

Originally from Barnsley, John admits that a few years ago, he would not have set foot in a church.

But when his wife became ill and he saw the support she received from the Christ Church community. Intrigued by how they had helped her condition to improve, and how happy everyone looked when he picked Anne up from church, he decided he had to try it for himself.

John used to be a property project manager, overseeing multi-million pound schemes like hospitals, schools and housing developments.

He said: “God called me and instead of building buildings, I am trying to build people.

“I can’t always give them what they need, but I give what I can.

“I used to work long hours and this is like chalk and cheese. These days I don’t think about the hours, I do what needs to be done and then go home.

John moved to Bridlington eight years ago. Earlier this year, he set about transforming the hub’s premises, carrying out all sorts of DIY work, putting the skills from his previous employment to good use.

The middle floor has a family room, which hosts meetings of an autism support group. Another group teaches families life skills, such as cooking, while there are also parenting courses.

On the top floor is a new cafe, The Ark. The cafe allows children to watch television, play with toys, enjoy a snack or read books while their parents fill in application forms or draft their CVs.

It opened a month ago and operates three days a week, but there are plans to extend it

“It’s not a cafe which will ever make money. But it’s not there to do that. It is like a refuge.

“Think of single parents, they might have nowhere to take their children while they try to access computers and search for jobs.

“It’s a place families can come which is a bit different. A place where they can be themselves, mix with others and there is no pressure.

Another element of his work is helping people build their first home with donations of furniture.

John said: “We get pre-loved furniture and sell it through the shop.

“We have a warehouse on Beck Hill where we keep the furniture for living rooms, bedrooms and a small amount of electrical items which we donate for free, if people meet the criteria. It could be people who have been referred by social services because they are victims of domestic violence, people who have been in hospital for a long time or people who have got their first accommodation after being on the streets for a while.

“It is so rewarding that we can help.

“I have lived and worked all over the country and I think Bridlington is an amazing place with a lot to offer.

“It has its difficulties, like anywhere else, but there is a willingness for local agencies to come together to try to help.

“I have seen people as low as you can get. With a bit of nurturing and confidence, you can see their stature grow and that affects the people around them.