For more than 5 decades we have been passionately devoting our energy toward advocating for the hungry and anyone in need within the Brisbane community. Our year round delivery of service means not a day goes by where you won't see our van at our 3 locations across Brisbane, where our teams serve warm coffee, a nourishing breakfast and valuable connection to our friends.
The service operates with a volunteer base of over 150 Brisbane locals who commit to our cause and mission every day, come rain, hail or shine, no matter the occasion. The Brigade was started by the late Louisa Toogood, who saw the necessity to bring connection, meals and warm drinks to those in need. Today we continue in her legacy. We are always striving to alleviate hunger.
Did you know there is an estimated 21,000 homeless people in Queensland? That is 1 in every 200 and 9,700 homeless on any given night. And unfortunately these numbers are growing.
Being homeless affects many different groups including domestic violence, debt, substance abuse, mental illness and housing affordability. There is no single definition of homelessness. Statistically it is categorised "where a person does not have suitable accommodation alternatives". Homelessness spans many groups including rough sleeping, people living in crisis or temporary accommodation or households, in tents or living in severely crowded or substandard dwellings.
Source: Census of Population and Housing 2021 Homelessness report, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Salvation Army.
Having always been focused on people, first in human resources and more recently in change management, Mel is an empathic leader with a strong desire for growth. In 2019 she participated in the World's Greatest Sleepout at the Gabba, and that single night without a bed and 4 secure walls around her opened her eyes to the difficulties of our friends on the street face daily. She came on board the Coffee Brigade team to contribute to people's lives in a meaningful way. She has guided the Coffee Brigade through the COVID-19 pandemic and gone above and beyond to bring positive change to further the organisation's future.
Paul joined the Coffee Brigade as a volunteer back in 2011. He later joined the committee and has been involved in executive and non-executive roles since then. From his very first shift he could see the very evident need for the Coffee Brigade's service to the disadvantaged and homeless community in Brisbane and this motivates his continued involvement. Paul brings extensive HR knowledge and skill to the Coffee Brigade and looks after our grant applications and assists the operations team with day to day activities.
Delma's professional background is in science and education and she was also involved in the building industry for many years. She has two children and two grandchildren and wants the world to be a better place when they inherit it. She retired in 2020 and was looking for something meaningful to do when she was introduced to the Coffee Brigade as a volunteer. A few short months later, she was appointed to the Secretary position where she can help ensure the Coffee Brigade to continues to provide services for another 50 years.
Ted is a Chartered Accountant who works in the Financial Services industry. He took over the role of Treasurer of the Coffee Brigade in 2021. Ted was inspired by the Coffee Brigade's long and rich history and wanted to contribute to its future. Every encounter with Ted is warm, engaging and delivered with a smile.
Gail heads up Bookkeeping and CFO services at Carbon Brisbane who provide end to end financial services. Gail has a huge focus on helping others and the work she does with the Coffee Brigade has really assisted her in settling into Brisbane after relocating from Perth the last two years. She is passionate about coaching and mentoring and brings this skill to her role on the Coffee Brigade committee.
Natalie joined the committee in January 2022 and currently works for the Residential Tenancies Authority which provides support for people in the private rental market. The RTA staff have always supported the Coffee Brigade with personal donations for those in need. Through this, Natalie has wanted to play a more active role with the Coffee Brigade given her background. Natalie is excited about being on the committee to provide her skills and expertise to the organisation and contribute to its success and sustainability.
Philip re-joined the Coffee Brigade in May 2022 as a Board Member, after previously holding the role of Secretary from May 2020 to May 2021. Outside of the organisation, Philip is a highly motivated HR professional with over 13 years of experience and a passion for workplace diversity, inclusion and belonging who champions people to bring their whole self to work each and every day. As well as a passion for D&I, Philip has a keen eye for detail and compliance and hopes to bring these passions to life in the organisation.
Mike is a research scientist based at the University of Queensland. He is passionate about mentoring and teaching, and continues to play Masters AFL, as well as coaching and serving on his football side’s committee. Mike joined the Coffee Brigade committee in 2022, and is looking forwards to giving back to the community in this way.
With a background in business operations and logistics, Aimee was onboarded with the view to improve operational efficiencies and implement long term sustainable processes across the organisation as well as effect cultural change. She is passionate about creating a world where we can all do better and make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate, striving to make sure that every connection is made with kindness and compassion.
Maddy is the Operations Coordinator at the Coffee Brigade. She began as a volunteer in 2020 and was significantly impacted when she met so many people doing it tough in her home city. She became part of the team in 2021 and is passionate about bringing a warm and efficient atmosphere for volunteers who serve day in, day out. Life is best lived generously and having this ethos with both the volunteers and our friends out on the road brings purpose to every day of work.
Everyone called her Mum. She was a cheerful and motherly lady. An angel. Their Queen.
She had a heart of gold and those in need of Brisbane claimed Louisa Toogood as their own.
The homeless, down and out, penniless, suicidal and the forgotten were regarded by Louisa as her family. "Her boys" as she called them.
At a time when there was little or no services for the destitute, Louisa felt her calling after seeing a dishevelled, drunken and distressed man - his eyes full of anguish. She knew she had to talk to him. She knew she had to try to help him. So she did.
The Coffee Brigade started from humble beginnings with a small picnic basket, Thermos flask filled with hot coffee and a few sweet biscuits from Louisa's trusty Morris Minor car in 1970.
Every morning Louisa would leave her tiny flat on Gregory Terrace, Spring Hill at 4.45am and would drive around the streets, to parks and various regular hideouts in Brisbane seeking anyone who needed help. In the darkness, the headlights of the old car would bring forward figures, seemingly emerging from the shadows. She would draw them to her like a magnet. Hot coffee, fresh sandwiches and fruit, combined with a listening ear, positive connection and telling people they were loved. Louisa quickly built a rapport and fondly became known as "The Coffee Lady".
She was always there. No matter the weather, or the day - everyone knew they could depend on her. She was something to look forward to. A friendly and caring constant.
Quickly the service began to grow.
The first day Louisa served one man, then seven and by the end of the month she had served 325 coffees with biscuits. By the second month it was 647 and 10 days into the third month, 326.
In one year alone the Coffee Brigade served 79,409 free breakfasts. Proudly, 50 years on, the Coffee Brigade still operates daily - rain, hail or shine as it always has.
Importantly, the Coffee Brigade has never been just about the coffee and the sandwiches. It is about the people. The simple acts of compassion, kindness and connection - demonstrating that someone actually cares is sometimes the impetus to just hold on or even help create a new life.
Louisa received many awards, certificates of appreciation and even an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her outstanding service to humanity and the poor and destitute. But Louisa did not do her work for the appreciation. She found a deep satisfaction in helping those who needed it. A wonderful feeling that still resonates with our volunteers to this day.