Port Vale’s bonds with its community will be stronger than ever when football finally returns.
The season has been suspended since March 13, but the football club has never been more important after owner Carol Shanahan decided to make it a community hub to help the north of the city during the coronavirus crisis.
That’s meant hundreds of meals and care packages being assembled and delivered from Vale Park, an operation that is growing all the time as Vale deal with donations from supermarkets, other businesses and individuals, then target where help is most needed.
Carol has experience in identifying areas of need through the Hubb Foundation charity which she founded, and which has worked closely with schools and community groups to feed children who might go without during the school holidays.
Now she and her husband Kevin have combined the expertise from that, the football club, the Vale community scheme and the Synectics Solutions IT business they also own.
She says the community has always been there for Port Vale. Now the club will be there in return.
She explained: “Right from the beginning, when people asked us why we were buying the football club, we have always said, to us, it was the best way to help Burslem and this area.
“If you make your football club successful then your local area benefits from that.
“Success comes on the pitch but also off it. So when football is taken away, what makes a football club successful? To me, it is that connection with its own fanbase and community. This is the time you show you don’t take your fanbase for granted. That you are grateful to them for coming to matches and being part of the club.
“This is a time when the world has flipped. They need the support from us now. Whereas normally we need the support from them.
“And so that is why it never crossed my mind not to do anything.”
The Port Vale community hub has developed fast since it was formed just two weeks ago, a combined effort across their businesses and charities. That includes Carol’s daughter and Vale’s vice chairwoman Kate Beardmore, and former Vale defender Adam Yates who is a manager at the Hubb Foundation.
Carol added: “We are working very closely with the council and so we are helping them to respond through social services. A lot of our boxes will go through referrals from social services. So, we can take food to people who they just can’t get food to quickly enough. This is where there is a desperate need and so we are supporting them.
“Kate is working very closely with the council and Adam is working very closely with the schools and head teachers so we are really trying to keep a grip on what is happening in the city and where our help is needed. It is where there is a gap we can fill.”
The effort is coordinated with a daily phone meeting across all the departments involved in the effort. That includes feedback from staff making deliveries, something Carol says can be a humbling experience.
She added: “Over the weekend, Adam Yates did all the emergency deliveries. With one man, he got there and the man burst into tears because he had got food.
“Adam makes it real for us. It is all too big for us to take in. But when he comes and tells us about the families and the people he has seen, it brings it into a very human level.
“If ever we doubt what we are doing, it is then remembering this man or this lady – the single mum with four kids living in small flat who have to self-isolate because one of them has a health condition.
“You can only support them as much as you possibly can. That is what we are here to do.”