Port Vale’s community scheme put out their information on social media under the tagline – ‘Your club, our community’.
That’s not just words, they have set about proving that over the last month with their efforts during the coronavirus crisis.
By the end of last week the community scheme – the Port Vale Foundation Trust – were able to report 963 parcels or care packages delivered, plus more than 200 activity packs handed out. That’s been right across the city, while more than 1,000 phone calls or emails have been keeping them in touch with their community.
That’s a combined effort between the Trust, the football club itself, the Hubb Foundation charity and the Synectics Solutions and Summit Hospitality businesses also owned by Vale owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan.
The Foundation Trust would normally provide activities for close to 2,000 people a month, of all ages. They had to suspend their activity sessions a month ago but have instead channelled their efforts into getting help out to people.
Vale’s head of community Tom Sherratt says the Trust has been needed more than ever.
He said: “There is the need that is always there, but there is that additional need. It is people who are limited to their house, whether they are a high risk vulnerable person themselves or they have family who have symptoms who can’t get out.
“The Foundation staff have been in every day, they have been sourcing food donations, organising and packaging the food into food parcels and delivering those out to the local community, and emergency parcels as well.”
Items, such as food and toiletries, have been donated by businesses, but also members of the public who have been using the drive-through donation point opposite Vale Park’s main reception. First-team left back Cristian Montano has also helped out with a donation and food shopping.
The challenge is then to identify the areas of need and get the parcels out to the public. Foundation administrator Tana Owen says that has been an emotional, and rewarding experience.
She said: “We had delivered to an elderly couple from Bradeley, she just wanted bread and milk, she wasn’t asking for the world.
“She rang back and was really upset because she had never had to ask for help before and was really embarrassed about it. It was just a ten-minute chat to cheer her up and make her smile.
“It is people that don’t want to ask for help, have never had to. But they are coming back to us so are feeling confident and comfortable to ask again when they need it.
“That is really satisfying and really positive when you are having these conversations. You know you are making a difference to people.
“We have had a lot of tears. Tears of happiness when you are delivering to people. It could be when we knock on that door, a lot of times we are the first person they have seen in weeks. So, a smiling face from one of our coaches is what they need, a bit of a lifeline for them.”
The Trust’s coaches have also been out delivering Easter eggs to the Royal Stoke University Hospital, and been offering their services to help schools, whether PE delivery or just activity sessions or classroom support. For example, they have been working with Moor Park Juniors and Glebe Academy and are happy to help.
They have also been sending out activity packs, providing fundamental skills like maths and English but related to football.
The Foundation Trust has also become more important online, whether promoting their own services, providing skills challenges through their coaches or the popular back garden football clips which have received national coverage.
Youngsters and parents who send the Foundation Trust footage of themselves playing in the back yard or garden can have that put to professional commentary thanks to BBC Radio Stoke’s Phil Bowers.
The Foundation’s media manager Dan Townley explains: “It started with a throwaway comment really, someone tagging us in to ask if we could do it. I messaged Phil and imagined we would get just one or two!
“It promotes what the government want, to stay at home but also stay active. Kids are in the back garden playing and parents as well. We had one the parent trying to tackle the child and running around the garden. It is something so simple but is keeping people active.”
They are building new contacts all the time but Dan says the fact the Foundation was already well established in the community is a huge advantage.
Dan added: “It is a positive that the Port Vale Foundation knows its community, they know who they are fighting for and that helps. It’s not necessarily just Vale fans, it is the Stoke-on-Trent community.”