Prominent Oxford Street business Gloria Jean’s Coffees has rejected allegations it supported an anti-gay charity organisation and hit back at the call for a community boycott of the caf?/p>
Tony Melham, owner of the Gloria Jean’s Coffees Oxford Street franchise, said the accusations raised last week in the newspaper SX were inaccurate and prejudiced.
I was so upset and in total disbelief at how they could get it so very wrong, Melham told Sydney Star Observer. People who know us in the community know what our position is on these [gay and lesbian] issues, what we stand for and what we have done.
Melham, who opened the Gloria Jean’s franchise in Oxford Street in 2002 with his wife Avril, said 90 percent of the charity money his business has raised over the past three years has been for gay and lesbian causes.
He estimates over $10,000 has been raised for organisations such as Mardi Gras, BGF and ACON, and the store has been an active supporter of such events as Mardi Gras, Shop Yourself Stupid and the Red Ribbon Appeal.
Gloria Jean’s Coffees is also listed as part of the ACON Safe Place Program and has been used as a marshalling area for Mardi Gras volunteers in recent years.
The furore erupted after Gloria Jean’s stores throughout Australia held the Cappuccino for a Cause fundraiser on the weekend of 8 and 9 October to raise money for the Mercy Ministries, a charity which helps young women in crisis and is supported by the Hillsong Church.
The contentious newspaper article claimed Mercy Ministries ran programs of brainwashing and curing people of their sexual diversity. Mercy Ministries denied the accusations.
Melham said he was raised a Catholic and is not a member of the Hillsong Church.
My wife Avril and I champion and support the gay community in many ways and many of our friends, customers, staff and managers are gay and lesbian, said Melham said.
We have been involved since day one that we have been here -¦ we are not sitting on the sidelines, we are involved.
Melham, who is a founding director of the Darlinghurst Business Partnership, has also been active in planned campaigns to preserve and promote the gay heritage of the Oxford Street precinct.
Melham would not put a dollar value on the damage the allegations and innuendo have caused to his business. The damage is more to the community and the community that don’t know us, he said. It is damage to our reputation, but most people know us, so we have a loyalty base there that we can draw from.
We are now going to continue doing what we do and remain an active part of the community.
Danielle Kent, a spokesperson for Mercy Ministries, stated, Mercy Ministries has never run -˜ex-gay’ programs, and furthermore the charity is not owned or run by the Hillsong Church.
We are really baffled by this as we don’t have a stance on homosexuality. We don’t say it is right, but we don’t say it is wrong. Our doctrines are based on Christian principles.
And we have seen very few girls dealing with sexuality issues. They are in a very small minority. The majority of what the girls are dealing with here are eating disorders, suicide and self-harm.