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Catholic awards winner inspires partnership giving free food to city’s homeless

Winston Cheng and Grant Richards

Homeless venture: Food production managing director Winston Cheng and Grant Richards begin their new venture offering free food to Brisbane’s homeless at an annual barbecue for the homeless. Photo: Emilie Ng

FOOD manufacturing manager Winston Cheng has turned his loose change into a charitable venture giving Queensland’s homeless a free feed and domestic training “through to eternity”.

The owner of food production factory Ivory Kitchen will launch a new line of ready-to-eat meals for supermarket chain IGA next year and, on the side, will give homeless people the same food for free.

Mr Cheng said the inspiration for the venture came from a rare purchase of The Catholic Leader after Mass at the Canossian Sisters’ convent in Oxley.

“It was a blessing in disguise for myself,” he said.

“Funny thing is I normally don’t buy The Catholic Leader.

“I was at the Canossa Convent at Oxley and my wife said ‘why don’t you get one?’  

“I had my wallet in the car but I had exactly $2 change in my pocket, so I bought a copy.”

After reading a story on Grant Richards, a former homeless head chef who won a Catholic award for his work with Brisbane’s most vulnerable, Mr Cheng felt inspired to offer help from his factory.

Within one week of contacting The Community Leader Awards winner, Ivory Kitchen organised 14 boxes of frozen, ready-to-eat meals to dish out to 600 homeless at an annual Christmas barbecue last Sunday.

“My priority is to feed them, to get them going on their feet again and to retrain them,” Mr Cheng said.

And he stressed that is was for free “through to eternity”.

“Charity begets charity, love begets charity,” he said.

“If there is a line drawn in the amount of food we give then there is no point to give.  

“If we want to go, we go full force.”

Mr Richards, who three days before the barbecue had been discharged from hospital after having had surgery, said Mr Cheng was “a man full of heart” who had “truly blessed” him and his team of volunteers.

“It’s helping us give an opportunity to the homeless that we didn’t have the resources for, which will ultimately help the homeless in a much bigger way for a longer term,” he said.

“We can help homeless to get food and clothes and toiletries, but our main goal is to get people into accommodation and employment.  

“With the resources from Winston, we can help them to get training to get that employment that much faster, easier and more confident when they go into employment because they have that experience or they might have the knowledge to feel confident enough to step forward.  

“Truly it will be as a team working together, helping a lot more people in a lot bigger way and we are eternally grateful.”

Mr Richards said he was grateful to The Catholic Leader for sharing his life story with Queensland Catholics.

“(The venture) may never have happened if it weren’t for The Catholic Leader,” he said.

Homeless man Mick Ramsay, who pays rent but lives on the streets to keep clear of drug addicts, scored a new pair of joggers at the free shoe section of the annual Christmas barbecue.

His next blessing could be a job through the food factory partnership. 

Mr Ramsay said he was grateful for events like the Christmas barbecue, even if those who did not need help often got first pickings.

“There’s a lot of rich people who take a fair bit when they have no need of it,” he said.

“They have houses and brand new cars and businesses, and they take soft drinks and put them in their shops.  

“It’s funny like that.”  

While Mr Richards was in hospital, Bernie Palings took charge to make sure the small Christmas event for the homeless was extra special.

Ms Palings became involved in helping Brisbane’s homeless after speaking frequently to Mr Richards when he was a regular vendor of street magazine The Big Issue.

She said the new venture with Ivory Kitchen would give hope to Brisbane’s homeless.

“They will realise that homelessness is a passing phase,” Ms Palings said.

“It doesn’t have to be permanent.”

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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