An unexpected oasis of loveliness tucked between a line of Lavington shops is serving up generous dollops of care with its coffee and cake.
Delightful white-washed wood panelling, comfy blue floral cushions, and a pressed tin counter whose bench top is adorned with delectable home-made treats await at Esencia Cafe on Urana Road.
But it’s the warm smile of greeting from cafe manager Jolleen Suter, resplendent in a vintage floral frock, that proves the cherry on top for customers who step through the door of this special cafe.
The profits from Esencia, which opened on September 13, go to supporting the work of the Women’s Life Centre in the adjacent building.
Ms Suter, a registered nurse, said the centre provided “hope, help and healing” for women facing unexpected pregnancy.
Its services include free pregnancy testing, crisis counselling, educational resources for pregnancy and abortion, help in planning a pregnancy around work or study, and abortion grief counselling.
“We want the centre to be a place where you can take a breath – a soft place to fall,” Ms Suter explained.
“Women who come in have the chance to connect with their unborn babies; we have a free ultrasound machine, which we use for non-diagnostic purposes.
“They can listen to their baby’s heartbeat between coffee and cake ... it’s beautiful.”
The centre embraces Lin Yutang’s philosophy that “of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother”.
Yet, at the same time, Ms Suter said in today’s modern world there was often huge pressure on women to juggle it all – from careers and relationships to motherhood.
“There is also pressure to make really significant decisions quickly,” she added.
“The centre offers a place to just slow down and assess your options with support and information.”
Ms Suter, a mum to three children, was first drawn to the Women’s Life Centre on her own journey of healing coupled with a wish to expand her nursing scope of practice into an accessible community environment.
She is currently undertaking training with Hope Alive, a counselling program that addresses childhood trauma and pregnancy loss.
For now, though, Ms Suter and the volunteers who run the cafe offer warm hospitality to the many customers who flock to this quaint corner of Lavington.
Relishing her role as a barista, Ms Suter is also becoming a dab hand at coffee art.
“I’m getting quite good at latte hearts,” she laughed.
Drop in to the Women’s Life Centre at 327 Urana Rd, Lavington or phone (02) 6040 7910 or 0423 004 904 (24-hour helpline).