Football club helps families in need

Waihopai Football Club player Ben Bartlett (22) was among the club members who made a food donation to The Pantry's Pay It Forward programme, while also volunteering there twice a week.

FAMILIES in need are receiving a helping hand from Invercargill food and grocery store, The Pantry.

The Pay it Forward programme was introduced around the start of Covid-19 two years ago in order to assist people struggling financially, and is run through several South Invercargill schools.

‘‘With the cost of food and petrol and interest rates going up, everything’s just really accumulating. Especially people having to take time off work, some of those people aren’t supported by their employers,’’ The Pantry manager Al O’Brien said.

‘‘People that have probably never had to take this sort of help before are finding themselves in a position where it just makes such a difference.’’

She said they had received a good number of donations so far, but could always use more.

‘‘The more we get, the more we can give out.’’

Waihopai Football Club held an open day recently, where players were encouraged to bring along non-perishable food items for the scheme.

‘‘This builds on our existing links with New River Primary where a couple of our club coaches spent two terms coaching football at lunchtimes, and at The Pantry where one of our senior players volunteers two days per week,’’ club member Gordon Crombie said.

Ben Bartlett (22), who is in his second season playing for the Waihopai AFC, was one of the players who made a donation. He also spends an hour every Monday and Wednesday volunteering at The Pantry.

‘‘We started a Special Olympics football programme at our club. Ben turned up and I asked him if he’d played before because he knew how to kick a ball, and he said yes. He said he’d played for two other clubs but they didn’t have any team for him to play for, so I said come
and play on my team,’’ Crombie said.

Bartlett said although he hadn’t played football for 11 or 12 years, he had been enjoying playing with the Waihopai AFC.

‘‘It’s really been quite amazing,’’ he said.