Innovation inside a coffee cup
June 29, 2022
A cup of coffee is a personal thing – flat white, black, cappuccino, espresso. No matter how you take it, for many of us having a ‘cuppa’ is one of the small but simple pleasures of our day.
But for Barry Schofield, the humble cup of coffee gave birth to an innovative idea that has led to thousands of dollars being raised to support people in crisis.
Barry is a member of St Leonard’s Uniting Church Brighton Beach. For many years, the congregation ran its annual Pancake Day on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday to raise funds for vital community services provided by the Uniting Church’s community services work.
“We charged a gold coin for a pancake, but, after deducting costs, the highest amount raised after a lot of work was about $300,” Barry recalls.
In 2016, they decided to give people the option of making a tax-deductible donation. The pancakes were free. This led to an exponential increase in the fundraising total with $2600 raised. The next year they set a new goal and the money raised increased to $5,500.
That same year, Barry recalls how a TV news story triggered a light bulb moment. The story was about the police ‘moving on’ rough sleepers camped around Flinders St station in Melbourne.
An overseas tourist remarked that it was not a good look for Melbourne. Mr Schofield noticed she was holding a cup of coffee.
“It occurred to me if a group of people would give the cost of a cup of coffee once a week towards a homeless person, it would soon add up to a sizeable amount.”
He met with the St Leonard’s minister Rev Kim Cain and together they devised a new approach, launching an appeal that was to become “The Coffee Cup Challenge.”
On the Sunday before 1 October in 2017 (International Coffee Day), members of the congregation were asked to accept a coffee mug and place $4 in it each week until Pancake Sunday in March the following year.
This was a symbol of buying a homeless person a cup of coffee once a week.
On the launch day, as the congregation moved from their time of worship to morning tea, a barista van on site gave each person a free mug of coffee (of their choice). The cost of the mugs and the coffee was met by donations.
Church members were encouraged to ask family, friends, relations and workmates to join them.
Approximately 20 weeks later, on Pancake Sunday in March 2018, participants brought in their coffee mug filled with the money they had saved and officially donated it to the appeal.
Afterwards the service, the congregation celebrated a complimentary “pancake feast” in the church hall.
In the preceding weeks Barry gave a series of short talks during church services about the challenges facing homeless people. That day Rev Cain gave a sermon on The Good Samaritan entitled “Who is our neighbour?”
“That year the St. Leonard’s congregation beat their previous Uniting Church Pancake Day record by donating $10,800. Nearly double the amount from the previous year,” said Barry.
“It was great to see participants who were not members of our congregation attend.”
In October, the congregation launched the same appeal and by March 2019 another record amount of $11,330 was donated. In 2019-2020, they again beat this amount with $13,000 raised. This year they also switched to “Uniting” branded re-usable coffee cups to cut down on single use cups going into landfill.
The next year COVID made it impossible for a barista to be onsite, so vouchers were given to participants for a cup of coffee from a local business. When restrictions made it impossible to enjoy a Pancake Feast, all participants received a bottle of pancake mixture and a takeaway coffee from a mobile barista as they left the church – despite the challenges they raised $13,232. The 2021-2022 appeal, despite being delayed by COVID, again set a new record, $14,176. Since Pancake Day in 2016, St Leonard’s has raised $62,538 for vital community services.
Barry said the congregation is thankful for the support received from local businesses and local politicians who have attended their events, including State MP James Newbury and former Federal member Tim Wilson.
The innovative fundraising approach has since been taken up by Uniting (Vic.Tas) opening it up to other congregations. Thus far, $59,994 has been raised, 14 congregations have taken part and 1,199 people have been assisted.
In a video promoting the campaign, Uniting (Vic.Tas) CEO Bronwyn Pike says, “By making this small sacrifice regularly you can make a really big difference. You can provide practical support and understanding for people who have nowhere to live, you can reach out to a person with mental health issues who’s looking to connect with their community and you can make sure that a struggling family can get the basics they need like food and toiletries.”
“Every day we have a reason to cherish the support of congregations across our work. It’s part of our mission and part of our purpose together. We can achieve more together and reach out to people in times of need.”
If you would like to ask Barry Schofield any questions about this innovative approach, he’s happy to be emailed at email@example.com
See below for images of the Coffee Cup Challenge at St Leonard's Uniting Church in Brighton. Images include Barry making pancakes, delivering a presentation during a Church service and with Uniting (Vic.Tas) CEO Bronwyn Pike.