Launched in 2015 when a group of local volunteers took over the Henfield Day Care Centre from West Sussex County Council, Henfield Haven has developed into a true community centre. Initially funded by council grants and fund-raising activities, it became a self-supporting organisation in 2020 when council funding was withdrawn at the onset of Covid-19, dedicated to offering high-needs dementia care, carer support and company for vulnerable or isolated people. It boasts an everyday café and lovely garden that is used by many different groups throughout the area, including as a small allotment community garden with a composter.

The Haven café is open every weekday from 9-3pm, offering eat-in or takeaway meals. Some people come in for a meal, sometimes several times a week. Friday is roast day, which is so popular bookings now have to be taken. They have been receiving a weekly food delivery from FareShare Sussex & Surrey for nearly 10 years, as well as accepting food donations from other local businesses in the community.

One customer told us:

“For many of us who live on our own, this is our best chance of getting a cooked lunch.” Another said: “You see the people come alive and come out of themselves and that’s fantastic.”

Meanwhile, the Thursday Club, a specialist day care for people living with dementia, is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and benefits from in the Haven café. Stimulating activities, like quizzes and bowling, supplemented by a substantial meal in the middle of the day, are provided.

Lorette, the centre’s manager, tells us that for some carers of people living with dementia, their visit is the only day of the week they actually get out and socialise with other people. Since the centre provides day care for dementia sufferers, the carers get to meet each other and share experiences.

Also, many carers get a chance to take a few hours off, knowing their wards are in safe hands. Digby Stephenson, CEO and Chairman of the Trustees, describes how the Haven has a minibus with a ramp to collect people who can’t get there under their own steam. Of their high needs’ customers, around half are collected from local villages. 

Digby explains that most day care centres don’t think of people’s personal needs, which means their carers have to stay with them.

“It defeats the whole object because it’s the carers that really benefit from this place. They are looking after their loved ones 24/7 without any time off. It means they can bring them here, or we collect them from their homes, and for a few hours they know they’re safe and being stimulated. The carers can then go off shopping, have lunch somewhere, or meet their friends,” he says.

Meanwhile, the food supplied by FareShare Sussex & Surrey enables food costs to be kept low for the customer.

“They get really good quality food at the price that you know they can afford,” says Lorette.

 She adds that FareShare’s food deliveries allow the Haven to put creative dishes on the menu.

“For example, today we’ve got a spicy bean stew that’s made with your chickpeas, kidney beans and bolognese sauce. Last week, for example, we had tinned pineapple, so we did a peach and pineapple crumble. And when we recently received a lot of flour, our volunteers made cakes.

“We really just try to put everything to good use and pass the benefits on to the customers,” says Lorette.

She adds, “A lot of people living with dementia, their taste buds change, it’s part of the condition. Here they can reminisce about food. They talk about perhaps what their parents used to cook for them or what they used to cook for their partner or their children. So you can get a lot of conversation out of people when they’re eating.”




Furthermore, many of the Henfield and local area clubs and societies also meet at the Haven. For example, a yoga class is held on Monday nights, while the area’s response team uses the centre to train once a month. Other groups meeting at the Haven, include a repair café, a gardening group and a bereavement support group. Services provided include an osteopath and a foot clinic, with the garage having been converted into two treatment rooms. 

Its services have proved invaluable to Henfield and surrounding areas. In June 2020, the Haven was honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services – the highest award for such services.

The centre would be unable to run without its many volunteers, which supplements the eight paid employees. Volunteers come from the village, with some from much further afield. Digby says:

“They are a hugely important part of our whole system. Because if you add up the numbers of hours volunteers do, it’s probably equivalent to five full-time jobs. They’ve helped us keep our head above water since we started and made a significant contribution to the Haven’s success.”

The Haven also enjoys the support of many local businesses who give ongoing donations as well as supply goods or services. 

In conclusion, Lorette says:

I would like to say to the suppliers who donate their food to FareShare Sussex & Surrey that you make an absolutely massive difference to our charity and our organisation and that’s passed on to our customers as well.”

One of 150 charities and community groups we work with across the region. You can find out more about the charity here:

Written by Valerie Hart, professional writer and volunteer for FareShare Sussex & Surrey