CafeSmart 2021 keeping up the community spirit

Small businesses optimistic about future

StreetSmart Australia and 10-year participant Axil Coffee Roasters discuss the success of CafeSmart 2021 amid lockdowns and why charity initiatives are so important.

Hearing Victoria was joining Sydney in a state-wide lockdown just before the main fundraising day of the annual CafeSmart charity event on 6 August, Cynthia Mac Caddon, Partnerships Manager of StreetSmart Australia, says she was initially nervous but ultimately overwhelmed with the support shown by the coffee community.

“We had people contacting us saying ‘we’re struggling, but we want to help, what can we do?’” says Cynthia. “It was so inspiring to see that even through the hardest times for us in Australia, a lot of people wanted to help.”

Organised by StreetSmart, CafeSmart 2021 returned for its 11th year running from 2 to 8 August. The event focuses on raising funds for local homelessness organisations across Australia, with participating cafés putting up signs and posters with QR codes, encouraging café customers to donate the cost of a coffee.

The week-long event encourages participating café staff to don yellow outfits and celebrate community spirit with their customers. During one day of the week, cafés also donate $1 per coffee sold, with funds then distributed by StreetSmart to local charities that provide vital homeless services in their local area.

“These funds support grassroots charities that provide vital services like temporary accommodation, meals, personal hygiene products, and more for those at risk or experiencing homelessness,” says Cynthia. “This also includes access to mental health programs, supplying smart clothes for job interviews, or a hearty nutritious meal for vulnerable people.”

Recently, Cynthia visited a community partner, Youth Project, who teaches hospitality skills to youth.

“One of the baristas, whose name is Angelo, had come from a tough past but now, thanks to this program, is learning new skills and is focused on new goals,” says Cynthia. “For me, this is what CafeSmart is all about — creating long-term connections and linking the cafés and the people who are participating with these charities and vulnerable people.”

Andy Smith, Retail Operations Manager of Axil Coffee says despite Axil Coffee having to cut down its participating venues from 14 to six due to the Victorian lockdown, the ones that stayed open performed well during CafeSmart week.

CafeSmart is an annual event focused on raising funds for local homelessness organisations.
Credit: Shelby Clayton

“One thing we heard from staff across all our venues this year was that more people seemed to be engaging with the concept,” says Andy. “I think one of the most exciting things is just the community wanting to participate and actually ask the questions to find out a little bit more.”

Andy says from his perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged people to show greater support for their community, local businesses, and their current challenges. Axil Coffee Roasters is celebrating 10 years as a supporting partner of CafeSmart. Andy says founders Zoe Delany and Dave Makin knew the charity encompassed everything they believed in.

“CafeSmart gave us a practical and easy-to-access avenue to make a positive impact. It’s not this big charity, and we know where the funds are going,” says Andy.

He adds that the impact CaféSmart has in Axil Coffee Roaster’s local communities, and many others across the country, is why so many people continue to support the initiative each year.

“It gives our customers the opportunity to make a positive impact without changing anything, it just removes every single barrier to entry that you often see with charities,” says Andy. Over the years, Axil Coffee Roasters has raised more than $20,000 for CafeSmart and those in need.

“From our perspective, it’s really about impact. At the end of the day, Axil Coffee could achieve nowhere near what milestones CafeSmart has been able to,” says Andy.  “The way they’ve connected communities and outlets, and given our customers the opportunity to do something good, is amazing.”

In 2020, CafeSmart raised more than $87,000, which was split across 80 different projects. While the total number of raised funds for 2021 are still being finalised, Cynthia says the event has currently raised more than $100,000 with more donations coming in.

“Considering how challenging this year has been, we can’t wait to start distributing these much needed funds to our community partners across Australia,” she says. “The rewarding part is participants can go back to their local cafés and hear where their donations have gone and know they’ve supported their    local community.”

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