MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference
Small business owner Lee Cuff serves coffee and provides catering to Wollongong business people five days a week.
But twice a week she also finds time to assist people who don't have a job.
Every Monday and Friday Mrs Cuff helps Anglicare turn its Keira Street office into a coffee shop so up to 70 people who are socially isolated or homeless can get together and share a hot cuppa, good food, and caring company.
Young, old, married, single and people from culturally diverse backgrounds gather for what is for many the highlight of their week .
They all share the common experience of deprivation and hardship but thanks to Mrs Cuff's small team at Olive Cafe in Market Street, they share time together with good, fresh nutritious food.
Anglicare Sustainable Living co-ordinator Debbie Magyar said it was difficult to explain how important Mrs Cuff's generosity was.
She said the time people spent at Anglicare's coffee shop was a short relief from hunger, loneliness and the harsh realities of living on the streets.
"Without fail, Lee's been cooking and providing food for this group two days a week for the past two years," Mrs Magyar said.
"Whenever she can, she stays and chats. Hunger and social isolation are huge issues our clients face. Two days a week we provide people on the streets with food and a safe place to come together. The number of people fluctuates according to the need on the street ... and what's happening in their lives."
Mrs Cuff responded immediately when she found out about the program. "I went to pick up a catering tray and walked through this crowd of people in the car park and I went in and asked what was happening," she said.
When she was told they were mostly homeless and disadvantaged people attending a coffee club she offered to help.
"We have a lot of fresh produce and I said I would like to do something," she said.
"We make lots of things with eggs and I thought eggs are very nutritious. So I started doing chicken and corn bakes and then zucchini and bacon and vegetable bakes. It is all very healthy. I put the food on a tray and hand it out. I talk with them all."
When Mrs Cuff can't make it, another member of her small team goes in her place.
Mrs Cuff said the program no longer had a bread supplier so that might be something another business could help with.
"At the moment the volunteers buy the bread themselves," she said.
"We're not wealthy but we're doing OK and this is one way we can give back to our community. I always thought that whatever resources you have, you should use them to benefit those around you. It is one way I can physically and directly make a difference to somebody's life."
For the last two years Mrs Cuff has also given Anglicare gift certificates for a lunch for two at Olive Cafe.
They are used as prizes at Anglicare's Coffee Shop Christmas party.
Mrs Cuff also prepares fruit platters for the annual celebration.
"I try and give them really healthy food," she said.
"It is funny they call me the quiche lady. We always have a bit of a laugh.
"And even if I was doing something else I would probably still bake some things and take them along."
Mrs Cuff also sponsors children through World Vision and UNICEF, and gives regularly to Red Cross and Cancer Council.