The November nominee of our Salt of the Earth feature, supported in conjunction with North Yorkshire Council is former chef Ray Marfell who has gone out of his way to help residents in his community access takeaways from the cafe he runs at Skipton Greatwood and Horseclose Community Centre.

Scoffers, as customers of Scoff Café are affectionately called by Ray, have had it hard through lockdown and he was more than happy to find a solution to keep the community spirit going.

“It was impossible to socially distance inside even if we were allowed to, so the only alternative was to do takeaways,” said Ray.

“The cafe is a fantastic place for people to meet up and I was worried that those who relied on that weekly contact were missing out,” he added.

This would have been the 6th Christmas for the cafe which has been opening weekly for five years serving substantial two-course hot meals with a drink each Wednesday.

For many weeks now, however, Tuesday has been meals delivery day around the estate and beyond thanks to Ray and a host of volunteers.

“This is our ninth week of takeaways and we are sending out around 40 meals in total each Tuesday. We can’t really manage any more. It has been a success, though not ideal, as we all have to cope with the restrictions.

“But it has been important to keep the contact with customers as much as possible especially those who benefited most from the community spirit of the cafe,” he said.

The former chef and publican, 67, who last ran a hostelry in York, has made his home in Skipton.

After working for a while with Learn Direct, Cotton Traders and latterly at Keelham Farm Shop, he was approached by Yorkshire Housing to run Scoff.

He said he wanted to do it without outside influence because he knew he could provide a good service using his own expertise without things getting complicated.

A £200 residents’ association grant was secured to start things off and since then the cafe has become a hub for people to get to know one another, meet friends while enjoying home-cooked favourites at a reasonable rate.

Keelham Farm held a wine and cheese evening and raised £600 which paid for volunteers’ uniforms with the logo, a new fridge freezer, new crockery and a trolley.

One such customer is London-born Gerry Carroll who moved north around 30 years and lived near Ripon before settling in Skipton.

“I was rather introvert and really quite shy and I hardly went anywhere apart from a supermarket trip with a friend,” said Gerry.

“It was a couple of years ago that one of my daughters, Tracey, who lives nearby said to me why don’t I go to Scoff Cafe?

“She persuaded me to go and went with me and I felt at home there straight away. You meet people and make friends and enjoy a lovely lunch. I really enjoy the banter.

“When the restrictions were put on us I was worried I wouldn’t see anyone so I have found the takeaway service Ray has organised has been wonderful. I usually order two meals, have one on the day it is delivered and save another for the end of the week. I usually get three puddings and share them with two of my daughters.

“What Ray and the volunteers have been doing is fantastic. They have really gone out of their way for people so they don’t feel forgotten.”

As well as providing a substantial meal for residents, the cafe also prides itself on raising money for good causes around the district and has handed out around £3,000 so far to such charities as the Street Angels, Skipton Food Bank, Selfa and Airedale Hospital’s maternity wing.

Karen McIntyre, Greatwood and Horse Close Community Centre manager, said: “Ray and his band of volunteers have done a fantastic job in turning Scoff Café into a takeaway service to deliver a fabulous two course meal to the customers who missed the vibe and food the weekly café brought them before Covid struck.

“Ray is an inspiration giving hundreds of pounds away to local charities year on year from any profits made from Scoff Café throughout the year and makes sure his volunteers have a meal at the end of the shift.

“Even though he’s been poorly this past year as soon as he was well enough he couldn’t wait to rally the troops and set up the take-out service.

“I really look forward to my homemade sponge and custard takeaway each week a real treat.”

The Salt of the Earth feature highlights the community spirit of Craven residents and the acts of kindness they do to make life easier and more pleasant for others.