AFC Portchester youth coach back out pounding the streets for charity – for the third time in lockdown!

AFC Portchester youth coach Peter Sanderson is pounding the streets for the third time during life in lockdown – and this time he’s enlisted the help of a few friends!

Sunday, 21st March 2021, 3:34 pm
AFC Portchester Vets line-up last year. Back (from left) Lee Jones (taking part) in the running challenge), Dean Stanton (taking part), Mike Burden (no longer playing), Keith Ashton (taking part), Mike Counsell (taking part), Vinnie Stallard (not taking part), Marty Keech (taking part), Ian Clarke (not taking part) , Peter Sanderson (taking part). Front (from left): Keith McIntyre (taking part), Wayne Grant (not taking part), manager Darren Lambe (taking part), John Roby (taking part).

The 36-year-old is one of numerous members of the Portchester Vets football team who are this month raising money for the town’s Food Pantry project.

Sanderson and 21 other over-35s - the eldest is 48 - are aiming to run anywhere between 20 and 100 miles during March

The former US Portsmouth player is no stranger to running for charity.

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Peter Sanderson, far right, and Warren Chebby present a cheque for £1,250 to the Portchester Food Pantry last December. Julie Sexton (second left) and Lucy-Anne Barnett, who run the Pantry out of the Methodist Church, are holding the cheque.

Last summer he raised over £1,000 for AFC Portchester junior teams by running a marathon in the road where he lives - over 100 laps in total.

That enabled Sanderson, who coaches a current under-8 side, to give each team between under-7 and under-11 level a further £110 each on top of the £150 the parent club hand out each year for new kit and equipment.

Then, last November, he and friend Warren Chebby raised over £1,200 for the Food Pantry by running 5k a day every day in the month.

That money enabled Pantry organiser Julie Sexton to organise extra treats over the festive period for the families who regularly visit the Pantry.

Peter Sanderson and Warren Chebby ran 5k every day last November - a total of 93 miles - to raise money for the Food Pantry.

Last April, The News featured the Pantry when it was being run out of AFC Portchester’s Crest Finance Stadium clubhouse.

Since last summer, it has been permanently based in a room at the Methodist Church - and demand shows little sign of decreasing.

Sanderson was involved with the Pantry scheme almost from the beginning, helping to deliver food parcels to the needy and vulnerable soon after its launch following the first national lockdown.

‘When you see those in need it does make your realise how lucky you are yourself,’ he explained.

‘Now there are still so many families needing help - people on furlough have had 20 per cent less money for a year and they’re struggling.

‘I just thought I could lend a helping hand.’

Sanderson played junior football for Castle Royals, a club who merged with AFC Portchester in 2002. Last year, as part of the club’s overhaul of their youth system, he was appointed foundation phase lead for the under-7-11 age ranges.

‘We want to eventually develop players for the first team,’ he said.

Julie Sexton, right, and her sister Penny Wilkinson pictured at AFC Portchester shortly after the launch of the Food Pantry project last April. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘The club have ambitions of playing two divisions above where we are now (Wessex League Premier Division) and if they get to that level we need our players to be able to play at that level.

‘We are very much a community club.

‘For some, the focus will be on having fun but others will want to take it more seriously and we want to develop those players further. That’s why the advanced player pathway was set up.’

Regarding his latest challenge, Sanderson saw a social media post from Sexton saying funds were getting low at the Pantry.

With the Vets team he plays for in mind, a lightbulb moment quickly arrived.

‘We needed to get fit,’ he said of the squad that plays in the Meon Valley Sunday League and which, according to his gofundme page, ‘continue to finish no lower than runners-up in the majority of our matches.’

‘I asked everyone who was up for some running and 22 of them put their hands up.

‘A few of the players have since run further than they’ve ever run before, it’s been amazing.

‘I’m told it’s helping some of them mentally, and it’s great that something like this is helping players as well as the community.’

Sanderson - nicknamed ‘Keano’ by colleagues ‘because I’m so keen to do things’ - set himself a monthly target of running 100 miles, the highest among the Portchester Vets squad.

After less than a fortnight of running, he had already completed 76 miles. As a squad, the 1,100-mile barrier has already been broken.

Sanderson is hoping to raise at least £1,000 and as of today has less than £100 to go to reach that target.

‘It would also be appreciated if you could cheer on the lads if you see them in their club colours pounding the pavements,’ he wrote on his sponsorship page. ‘At the very least just refrain from laughing, pointing or throwing things at them.’

Volunteer Sexton, meanwhile, spends an hour at the Methodist Church every weekday morning helping to sort out the Food Pantry

‘We had to leave AFC last June because they needed the room back,’ she recalled. ‘Someone then said to me the Church had a spare room.

‘The Pantry has just got bigger and bigger from there.

‘I go to the BP garage every day to pick up food and I still get people delivering food to my house.

‘The butchers, bakers, the fruit and veg shop and Poundwise in Portchester precinct have also got involved. They all sell the vouchers for people to top up their Iceland card.

‘This way, you’re helping the shops in the precinct as well.

‘Since the second or third lockdowns, the numbers (of people using the Pantry) have increased, and they’re still creeping up.

‘It’s people from all walks of life. People are struggling.

‘We saw it when the schools closed, kids were suddenly at home and all they wanted to do was eat all day.’

When the Pantry started up at AFC, all food parcels were delivered. Now, the majority are collected from the Church - though due to social distancing regulations only Sexton and her volunteers are allowed into the room.

‘We don’t want to be complacent,’ said Sexton. ‘People come and drop off food, we have our regulars who are always asking ‘what do you need?’

‘In the run-up to Christmas we had donations of winter coats, we used to get books, toys, jigsaws. People could come in and browse, though they can’t do that at the moment.’

Sexton admits she has great support from her husband Clint, who is responsible for the weekly deliveries the Pantry have left.

But that’s not all Clint does. ‘If I want him to dress up as Father Christmas, or a chicken, he will.’

As for fundraiser Sanderson, Sexton added: ‘Pete used to be one of the drivers, and we’ve kept in contact.

‘He said he was spurred on to help us again when he saw what the footballer (Marcus Rashford) was doing.

‘Pete’s a cracking lad, thanks to his help we had a fantastic Christmas and new year.

‘But we started running out of things a lot quicker after that which is why I then put a post up on the Voice For Portchester group.’

Set up at the start of the pandemic, the Pantry remains a focal point for many families a year on from the first lockdown. So how long does Sexton envisage the scheme going for?

‘I would like this service to be around forever. There was a Food Bank in Fareham but it stopped due to a lack of volunteers, it moved to Gosport.

‘Portchester could do with one. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll be here forever.

‘There’s no reason why it can’t continue - that’s my aim.’

To donate to Sanderson’s AFC Portchester Vets fundraiser, visit https://uk.gofundme.com/f/portchester-food-pantry