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Give us this day our daily cuppa: Gift of Bread launches Church Grounds

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Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

After seeing volunteers change their lives through his food distribution charity, Gift of Bread, Marcel de Maria has launched a second charity aimed at helping marginalised people into meaningful employment. 

Wholly volunteer-run and based at St Peter and Paul Tempe’s church hall, with hubs in several Sydney parishes, Gift of Bread is the city’s largest distributor of left-over bread from bakeries to other charities, welfare organisations, refuges and more than two dozen school breakfast programs. 

Its unassuming co-founder has now partnered with inner-west Sydney coffee supplier Euro Espresso to establish Church Grounds, a social enterprise creating job training and employment opportunities for vulnerable people. 

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De Maria’s new mission is an online store run from a small office at the Tempe church and he says he is blessed to have the support of the Archdiocese of Sydney. 

He says Church Grounds will provide a much-needed income stream to cover Gift of Bread’s rising costs. 

The biggest is around $600 a week on petrol for the delivery vans which pick up, package and distribute sliced bread, flat breads, crispbread, buns, rolls and rotis to the needy all over Sydney from 4am each morning to 9pm at night. 

“With Church Grounds we’re not training people how to make coffee, we’re introducing people into a corporate environment,” he explained. 

“They can come in at their own pace and grow in confidence to apply for a job, to learn how to write a CV, and to become employable.” 

church grounds - The Catholic weekly
Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Speaking at the launch, held at Canterbury League Club on 22 June, de Maria said that this was a natural next step for Gift of Bread because “somewhere along the way” it became a supportive community for people on society’s margins. 

“We started bringing people on board who actually needed help themselves,” he said. 

“For many people who had disabilities or were unemployed we were their stepping stone into the workforce.” 

Present at the launch was Labor member for Canterbury Sophie Cotsis and Justice and Peace promoter for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Fr Peter Smith. 

“I know that in my own community people are doing it really tough at the moment and this initiative is really important to help more people, who are making choices about whether they have three meals a day down to one meal a day—and some don’t even have a roof over their head,” Cotsis said.

Fr Smith said he has been pleased to see Gift of Bread’s growth over nearly two decades, but sad to see the growing need for it. 

“I’ve always loved the name, as bread is such a staple and has such significance for us as Catholics,” he said. 

“But to lift people out of poverty and being marginalised is not just about feeding, housing and clothing them, it’s also about bringing them into community. 

“Gift of Bread and now Church Grounds is bringing some of those things together.” 

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