I’ve worked in a lot of different places and sooner or later every office worker finds the local café that makes their coffee just the way they want it. Ever since I started working at Toowong in 2018 it’s been the Stellarossa café for me.
I’ve seen a few young baristas come and go, young people moving onto the next big adventure but every single one of them has been a star at their job and as a person.
My first year the Owner/Manager gave me a Christmas card.
When the coronavirus took off in March it was them who told me Tom Hanks had it.
It was the Manager who looked off in the distance two weeks later when I asked him how was business and he replied it had slowed down.
I remember one morning standing in front of those young baristas advising I may not be in next week. We were all feeling the uncertainty of the times and I wanted to offer something more than words.
When I came back after Easter having worked from home I had already been putting notes in the tip jar.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 24th of March they had been doing take-away only and there was a new owner, Kate, who had taken on the business at the height of the pandemic.
With business down she was trying to ensure all of her staff got at least one shift each week. Some of them were not eligible for assistance even if they needed it.
As a former hospital wardsman, I had wanted to give something back to nurses.
In March there were questions about whether we would have enough PPE for our health staff, if the disease would continue to spread and at some point if our health care system would be overwhelmed.
Our nurses were putting those concerns aside to be there for us even if it meant they may end up facing what doctors and nurses had faced in Lombardy and Barcelona and New York.
When I read about the BuyThemACoffee initiative in an article written by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt on Weekend Notes, I knew I had found a way to thank our nurses. Founder Kaylie Smith had been advised by nurses what they really wanted was a coffee.
After donating to the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I later wondered if I could do something similar involving Stellarossa Toowong.
I got in touch with the BuyThemACoffee initiative to get advice from them on what I should do. Then I contacted the nearby Wesley Hospital and things quickly began to take shape.
The Wesley Hospital advised they would like to receive gift vouchers for their staff which would keep the logistics of the exercise simple.
The Wesley Hospital, is part of UnitingCare Health (UCH), a not-for-profit private hospital group operated by UnitingCare Queensland, which provides health and community services on behalf of the Uniting Church.
The Wesley is one of the largest private hospitals in Queensland with over 2,000 staff who provide highly specialised care to their patients.
I set up a GoFundMe page on the 21st of April, 2020 to hopefully raise $250 for Stellarossa Toowong.
I wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“Local small businesses are doing it tough due to the economic slowdown of COVID-19.
At the same time health care workers are on the frontline of dealing with this global pandemic, facing increased workloads and risk.
Inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near my workplace and they advised some coffee vouchers for staff would be appreciated.
Local cafe Stellarossa, which serves the best coffee in Toowong, will be on hand to provide the coffees from the vouchers.
Anybody who works near Toowong Village will be aware of how tough local businesses are doing at the moment, trying to take care of staff and keep their workplace running in these uncertain times.
As a former hospital wardsman, I can attest to how selfless and hardworking all hospital staff are.
This is a chance to do something kind for those whose kindness and courage always shines through, but particularly in times when we’re hurting.
This is chance to support workers and their workplace through the economic downturn.
Our aim is to raise $250 but whatever final goal we reach. you can be certain your donation will put money in the cash till of a small business and a coffee in the hand of a health care worker.
Both will be grateful for your donation which will make a difference in their lives.”
As a former wardsman, I was planning for the cards to go to nurses and doctors, volunteers, admin staff, allied health, doctors, cleaners and kitchen staff.
Stellarossa HQ swung their weight behind it showcasing the GoFundMe page on their facebook page on the 12th of May. A few flyers were handed out and put up around the store.
Friends, strangers and work colleagues (including The Social Club) and even one of these young baristas (Hannah) who I had partially set up the page to help did the rest. I am truly touched by their generous spirit.
These types of business have been likely to have a daily turnover of $300-$400 during the height of restrictions.
By the 21st of May, at a time when nobody has not been financially impacted these wonderful donors had raised $450 to help Stellarossa Toowong and to give thanks to heroes we should never take for granted and are always there for us when we need them.
I was away sick as a precaution during this period but on the 4th of June I was able to give the manager/owner of Stellarossa Toowong $450 in cash on behalf of all those generous donors.
The manager advised me the money raised would be enough for 112.5 coffees but she had chipped in the rest of the money to have enough for 200 cards.
That is the calibre of the people I’m talking about here.
In the coming days, things were arranged with the Wesley Hospital to deliver the 200 gift cards.
Kate who was keeping her business running and supporting her staff through tough times was too shy and busy to attend.
Instead I went over to the Wesley Hospital with one of the young baristas Andrea who is in her second year of studies as a physiotherapist.
The General Manager, Sean Hubbard and the Director of Medical Services, Jim Houston was on hand to take delivery of the vouchers from us and to thank us.
Photos were taken from their media team including of the delivery of the vouchers to staff around the hospital which were uploaded to The Wesley’s facebook page.
Friends, work colleagues and strangers had done a wonderful thing and I feel so fortunate to have just been a part of it.
That Saturday I picked up Karen from a shift.
She had gotten some unexpected work for the university in place of exam invigilation which had been wonderful news.
We were late for our nephew’s eighth birthday.
It was the first whole family gathering we had with all of my in-laws together since the crisis started.
Everybody maintained social distancing but it was good to be with everybody.
The reclaiming of what had been put on hold continued.