THE hawks are determined to continue their community work after landing the Blue Square Bet community team of the year prize.
The efforts of the club to make a positive difference in the local area have clearly been met with league approval.
Now former Hawks manager Shaun Gale – who heads up the community work – is promising the forward strides made off the field will continue.
The Westleigh Park club established their community scheme five years ago and it continues to go from strength to strength.
Gale is delighted the hard work of his team has been recognised.
Ross Betteridge, who took over when former player Bobby Hopkinson left the club, and Lauren Clark, who is leaving to take up a football scholarship in America, have also played an important part in the success.
‘Our philosophy from the start was to integrate the football club more into the local community,’ said Gale.
‘We wanted to get more local people coming along to the club.
‘It is fair to say we are now in most schools in Leigh Park and the surrounding areas, providing all sorts of activities.
‘We run holiday courses, take after-school clubs, run street sport activities and take groups for teachers when they have their professional planning time.
‘And we also provide work experience opportunities at Westleigh Park for students on sports courses at South Downs College and Havant Academy.
‘All ages from five year olds to 16 year olds are catered for and we are finding more and more are coming along to games.
‘It is a lot of hard work but I have a terrific team involved who are dedicated to working with these kids.
‘The area isn’t an easy one at times and there isn’t a lot of money about.
‘We are all about providing a service and not about making money.’
In tough financial times, Gale has to rely on money from the Premier League pot and Hampshire County Council, so the £10,000 that comes with the award is very useful.
It will enable Gale and his team to put on more events and purchase vital equipment.
In the five years he has been running the scheme, Gale hasn’t been able to attract a main sponsor and believes that would make a huge difference.
‘We are not talking huge amounts of money but a main sponsor could help us develop even further,’ he said.
‘It is all about making differences to kids’ lives and some of those we work with don’t have it easy.
‘The look on their faces when someone like (Hawks boss) Lee Bradbury and first-team players like Joe Noakes and Perry Ryan turn up to take coaching sessions is priceless.
‘Receiving the award is nice because it recognises the hard work put in by the team.
‘The aim in the future is to get bigger and even better.’