‘You’d hope our reputation in the community is a lot better than it was’ – Gosport Borough’s Pat Suraci
Gosport Borough pair Pat Suraci and Joe Lea could not be better placed to see the incredible hard work that goes into the club's crucial 'Feed a Family in Need' campaign.
Taking on full-time roles as heads of the newly-launched centre of excellence last summer, the close friends have spent a great deal of their time based out of Privett Park in the past nine months.
It's a period which has coincided with chairman Iain McInness’ award-nominated project - providing food parcels to the most vulnerable and needy in the Gosport area during the pandemic.
Launched a little less than a year ago, Borough’s clubhouse has been the hub for packing and preparing food essentials to be delivered to families across the town through the 'Feed a Family' scheme.
Incredibly, more than 5,000 parcels have been received by residents across the area - and that number continues to rise weekly.
Through their playing and centre of excellence roles at Gosport, Suraci and Lea have seen the great work campaign community co-ordinator, Debra Redpath, clubhouse manager Keith Slater and the army of volunteers get through in ensuring the parcels keep going out.
In fact, the members of Shaun Gale's first team squad have been playing their part delivering parcels themselves.
Brazilian-born Suraci says the campaign, which has received national recognition and is shortlisted for the Football Supporters Association’s non-league Lockdown Heroes award, has 'opened his eyes' to some of the struggles the pandemic has left people facing.
He said: ‘Keith and Deb at the bar have been so good with the ‘Feed a Family’ project which they’ve been doing for a while now.
‘When I’ve gone out and delivered it’s opened my eyes a little bit as to how much people are struggling.
‘The ‘Feed a Family in Need’ is something that’s really helped a lot of people. It was really nice to go out and see that and have that sense that you’re helping people in the community.
‘For the club it really shows how far we’ve come and you’d hope that our reputation within the community is a lot better then maybe it was in the past.
‘The fact we’re able to help these families that are in need - it’s just something that shows where the club is at the moment.
‘It’ll only continue to grow. It’s been really good and it’s opened my eyes to things that maybe I didn’t know before.'
Lea, 23, who came through Southampton's academy system and had a spell at Yeovil, feels Borough’s reputation is improving.
In previous stints at Privett Park, the midfielder admitted the club was not seen in the best of light by people in the town.
Lea said: ‘What we want is just the club to be seen as something the community can really look up to.
‘In terms of ‘Feed a Family’, in terms of the centre of excellence, there are so many things now the club are trying to give back to the community.
‘The guys in the bar have done such a good job, I just think in terms of the reputation - myself and Pat were here four or five years ago when maybe the reputation wasn’t so good - you look at where the club is at now, it’s in such a good place.
‘The vibe and feel around the club is the best it’s ever been since I’ve been here.
‘I really think that’s down to the Feed a Family, but now with the young lads coming in and the synergy with the first team it’s all coming into place.'
* The Football Supporters Association’s non-league Lockdown Heroes award winner is due to be announced today.