Gosport Borough FC ‘overwhelmed’ by community response as they help the needy during lockdown

The man tasked with ensuring Gosport Borough FC are helping the needy during lockdown has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the response he has had.

Friday, 24th April 2020, 2:56 pm
Updated Friday, 24th April 2020, 2:59 pm
First team manager Lee Molyneaux and coach Ben Buckland, along with players Liam Robinson and Rory Williams supporting Gosport Borough's 'Feed a Family in Need' campaign, with supplies paid for by the Crowdfunding page and the van donated by Fareham Car Hire Ltd for the duration of the project. Picture: Steve Reid / Blitz Photography

Keith Slater, 48, only took over as clubhouse bar manager at Privett Park on March 17.

That was 10 days after Borough had played what proved to be their last game of 2019/20, a 1-0 Southern League win at Beaconsfield.

Slater explained: ‘My role soon changed - the chairman (Iain McInnes) said we have to do something to help out, and he told me ‘I want you to head it up.’

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Paul Blythe from Morrisons Gosport with Charlotte Tillett, the store’s head of food bank operations, loading up the Gosport Borough FC kit van. Picture by Keith Slater

‘I’ve been overwhelmed to be honest.

‘People have launched themselves into this.

‘I’ve made 30 or 40 new friends already - we’re all in this together.’

Slater has only lived in Gosport for two years with his partner after moving to the town from Essex. Previously a Southend United season ticket holder for many years, he had been working at the Holiday Inn in Eastleigh.

Karen Ponting at Gosport War Memorial Hospital accepts some pizzas for key worker staff donated by Dominio's and delivered by volunteers at Gosport Borough FC. Picture by Keith Slater

After lockdown was imposed, Slater said: ‘The first thing we did was reach out to the local community, saying ‘this is what we want to do, we want to help people’.

‘We spoke to the Gosport Salvation Army and they said ‘go for it, it’s a good idea’.

‘We have also teamed up with (local charity) Gosport Voluntary Action who refer people to us.

‘We told them we can act quickly, we have transport.

Gosport Borough FC volunteer Clare Kaznowski (left) and Keith Slater with food parcels donated by Aldi. Picture by Debra Redpath

‘We were very grateful to Morrisons who donated a pallet of food and we were quickly making 6-10 deliveries a day.

‘I’ve been going down there to pick up more donations - it’s about a pallet’s worth every time. There’s pasta, eggs, bread - it’s good stuff.

‘Aldi have also donated food - it was fresh produce around the sell-by date but we were able to deliver it quickly.

‘A couple of times we have also turned up to the club and found boxes of food that have been donated by supporters.

‘I put out an appeal for egg boxes, and someone quickly dropped 50 off when they were out walking their dog.

‘We asked for volunteers and very quickly we had about 25, the community have bought into it - there’s an amazing skill set off people, some of whom have been furloughed.

‘For example, one of our volunteers is a taxi driver and he’s been working out routes for the deliveries. He’s worked out the shortest routes - to minimise the environmental damage and to minimise our petrol costs.

‘Ex-players are helping out, like Dave Taviner who played for the club in the 1990s, and Lee Molyneaux and his management team have been delivering as well.’

They certainly have - Molyneaux was out today delivering along with coach Ben Buckland and players Liam Robinson and Rory Williams.

They were taking food parcels out in a van which has been donated by Fareham Car Hire Limited, while one of Slater’s former work colleagues has given him a large freezer to store goods in.

Slater’s workload has increased as lockdown has gone on.

‘Last week we made contact with some local schools and found there was a need … a lot of families might have parents who are self-employed and who aren’t working,’ he said.

‘There are people who fall through the cracks, they’re not on the radar of the social services or the council.

‘Because of that, last Friday we had 30 deliveries - we could see there is a need for us here.

‘We’ve also started working with the Gosport veterans association.

‘At the moment we’ve been delivering within Gosport, but we haven’t said we’ll only deliver here - we’ll go wherever is logistically possible.

‘We also linked up with Pompey in the Community (PITC) to deliver Domino’s pizzas.’

They delivered the pizzas to Omega Watch at Gosport Fire Station, to staff at Gosport War Memorial Hospital and also the Thalassa Nursing Home in Western Way.

‘Clare Martin, who runs PITC, called me having seen the work we are doing in our community and asked if we could help deliver in Gosport, as they already have their hands full dealing with Portsmouth,’ Slater recalled.

‘We were only too happy to help, so we took a delivery of 17 pizzas from the Alverstoke branch of Domino’s which were delivered by our team of volunteers to a number of families who have been referred to us.

‘The one thing the volunteer team have been looking to do is to mark the great work key workers are doing in the town, so this was the perfect opportunity to give some to staff at the local hospital, fire stations and a nursing home.

‘It was a fantastic gesture by Domino’s and shows what a community effort is really all about.’

Slater explained his daily routine. ‘I normally get up about 5am, check the emails, I’m at the club for 8,’ he outlined. ‘We generally do around two or three deliveries a day - there’s three shifts with four or five volunteers on each shift.

‘The first van goes out around 10.30 and the last one comes back between 4-5.

‘Some volunteers use their own cars - they’ve all got hand sanitizers, face masks, PPE, gloves.

‘What we haven’t had donated the club have provided.’

Borough have this week started Crowdfunding - via their Feed A Family In Need scheme - to raise money to keep their food parcel delivery service going as long as possible.

‘We started it because we have used up all our donated stock due to the demand,’ Slater revealed.

He was given £250 by the club to spend on food last Saturday. That didn’t last long and he spent a similar amount just three days later.

Borough are aiming to raise £2,500 through Crowdfunding, and have been amazed by the early response - already over £1,600 has been donated.

That sum includes £20 donations from a variety of Borough first team players such as captain Mike Carter, top scorer Matt Paterson, Theo Lewis, Sam Roberts, Pat O’Flaherty, Charlie Davis, Ryan Woodford and Williams.

‘I would say 95 per cent of the people we help have been referred to us, and we prefer to operate that way,’ Slater continued. ‘People have contacted us directly but we’ve referred them to Gosport Voluntary Action who have then referred them back to us.

‘Most of our referrals have come via Gosport Citizens Advice.

‘It all varies - some people we deliver to every week, some might just need a delivery for a week or two weeks.

‘It’s a mix … the people could be single or families, the biggest we have helped out so far is a family of nine.’