Changing Lives a Loaf at a Time

Students at Gift of Bread
Jess and Amelia are students at Mont Sant’ Angelo College Mercy College and former students at St John Therry Primary School. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Angela Mills is a busy woman but reckons she has hit upon a great way to get family and friends together and do 140,000 kilograms worth of good in the process.

The mum-of-two and Family Educator at Father John Therry Primary School at Balmain co-ordinates a war on waste and social outreach which she says couldn’t be more fun, easy and rewarding.

Every Tuesday fortnight for the last three years the school families are joined by ex-students, parishioners of nearby St Augustine’s, and even members of the wider community, to support The Gift of Bread organisation by collecting left-over bread and other goodies from the local Baker’s Delight and San Antonio Sourdough bakeries after closing time.

They package it up in the church hall and deliver it all to rehabilitation centres, the local neighbourhood centre, and some parishioners, while the school and parish get a little ‘thank you’ box as well.

By doing this they help the local food rescue organisation, which began in 2007, give a mammoth load of good bread from more than 30 bakeries across the city to people who need it instead of letting it go to landfill.

Many hands make light work of packaging of donated bread for the needy.

Volunteers manage the four outreach centres in the inner west, with the other three at St Brigid’s Marrickville, St Mary’s, Erskineville, Maternal Heart of Mary, Lewisham.

Angela says there are around 15 school families who are actively involved on a regular basis at Balmain and around 10 more who volunteer when they can.

Every Tuesday fortnight from 7-8pm the St Augustine’s parish hall is a hive of activity at which the adults catch-up on each other’s news and kids lend a hand alongside their mates. The next morning another set of volunteers deliver the goods.

A roster on Googledocs makes the organising easy and such is their dedication that the program even runs during the school holidays, only stopping for the Christmas and the New Year period.

It all began when The Gift of Bread founder Marcel De Maria contacted the school to see what interest there was in beginning an outreach centre in Balmain.

Family Educator Angela Mills is joined by her husband and children in the outreach each second Tuesday.

“Father John Therry’s is an amazing community, and they are building bridges and making a real difference in the local community,” says Marcel.

Angela says the fortnightly get-together is a perfect blend of fun, faith and community and has been a blessing to her own family.

“It is Jesus’ message of love in action,” she says.

“The children get to see the parents and others in the Church community doing good and being part of something bigger than themselves and it builds a strong sense of justice for those involved.

“It also gives people from the school, parish and community opportunities to connect in different ways, and allows for our own children and for us as parents to experience on a weekly basis the opportunity to share with others in need. This has been a great gift.

“As a parent to two young children I want them to understand that they are very fortunate and because of that they have a responsibility to care for others who are less fortunate than themselves, but in this day and age it’s really hard for our children to fully comprehend how fortunate they are.”

Parent Clair Swanson who has two children at the school, Eva in Year 6 and Luke in Year 4, agrees that helping out with the regular bread run is good for them.

“It gives them an appreciation that there are many people in our community that do not have the same privileges that we have, and that the bread that we help collect and pack will help feed them and their families,” she says.

“It also brings us together as a community for the greater good, and we get to share conversations with new friends and old on a regular basis – take an hour out of our busy lives to connect face to face with others.

“We also are very pleased to see that bread and other products are not wasted.

“When we pick up from Bakers Delight in Balmain there’s a huge amount of product that would be simply thrown away, were we not able to collect and distribute it to others.”

Year 3 student Ella Mills says she loves getting in among the loaves “because you get to see your friends and you’re helping people who are having a hard time. And you’re not wasting bread from the shops”.

Her brother Xavier in Year 5 adds that he likes “helping members of the community and getting to meet new people”.

“I like playing with the other kids after we’ve finished packing the bread.”

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