GRANT Richards went from head chef to struggling homeless for 18 months, so he never believed he would be named one of Australia’s most inspiring Catholics.
Mr Richards, known on the streets and in his blog as “Grant – Polity Guy”, took out the top award at The Community Leader Awards in Brisbane on November 12 for his work with the homeless.
The former Brisbane head chef suffered a spinal injury that landed him in hospital for nine months, eventually leading to a homeless life for 18 months.
Eight years on, Mr Richards is now married and rents his own apartment, but his primary focus is still helping the homeless, buying them soft drink and a pie and sitting down to lunch with them.
When he was named Community Leader of the Year at The Catholic Leader’s Community Leader Awards ceremony, he forced an elated fist-pump right in the air.
“I’ve never won a thing in my life,” Mr Richards said.
He joined four other winners in Brisbane for The Community Leader Awards.
Annette Drew won the Professional Leader of the Year Award for her work at Centacare Community Services, Sunnybank, managing services for people with disabilities.
Her passion for people with disabilities has spanned more than 30 years, fuelled by a love of Catholic social teaching and the Eucharist.
St Kevin’s Catholic School, Benowa, Year 2 student Sarah Fowler won the award for Young Leader of the Year for her self-organised fundraisers, in particular a cupcake stall for Nepal earthquake victims.
The young leader also engages in sports as a way of raising money for the John Maclean Foundation which provides wheelchairs and aides for children with physical disabilities.
Volunteer of the Year Joe Grogan, who is a familiar face to Mass-goers at St Stephen’s Cathedral, received the award for his steadfast commitment to the Cathedral’s Young Adults Movement among other volunteer organisations.
Shalom College, Bundaberg, college minister Christian Brother Gordon Rochford took out School Leader of the Year, but was unable to attend the awards ceremony. Br Rochford has been a Christian Brother for almost 70 years and still marvels staff and students with his crystal clear memory for birthdays.
All five winners received an original artwork from one of four local Brisbane artists.
Albany Creek parishioner Leigh Reddicliffe received a new award – the People’s Choice Award – created because of a flood of nominations for her.
Mrs Reddicliffe is a long-time loyal parishioner and tireless volunteer for All Saints’ parish.
All five winners were among the 15 finalists chosen from more than 60 nominations for the 2015 awards party, hosted by The Catholic Leader.
Managing editor Matt Emerick said the annual awards showcased the country’s “backstage helpers”.
“There are many Catholics in Australia who prefer to hide behind their generosity and good will, working quietly and humbly, which in itself is not wrong,” Mr Emerick said.
“But The Community Leader Awards is a way of recognising their hard work and hopefully, will inspire them to ‘press on’, as St Paul says, in the good race.
“I want to thank all the five winners and our special People’s Choice awardee for committing yourselves to the faith and to the service of the faithful.
“No doubt your actions will inspire more people in the Catholic Church in Australia to work humbly for God’s kingdom here on earth.”
By Emilie Ng