COLUMN: Donating food to homeless showed Forest’s caring side

Friary CEO Sam Crawford
Friary CEO Sam Crawford

Nottingham Forest lost for the first time in eight matches on Good Friday, but won the hearts of the homeless on Easter Monday without kicking a ball.

The Reds faced a rampant Millwall side last Friday and were a goal down before many had even taken their seats. Shaun Williams headed home after just 29 seconds and that paved the way for convincing win by the time the final whistle had blown.

Having watched a rerun of the match, what concerned me most was the sheer volume of crosses that Forest allowed their opponents to deliver. The vast majority of those crosses came from the Millwall left and it was no surprise that both of the Lions goals came courtesy of this statistic.

It was quite surprising to see both Barrie Mckay and Apostolos Vellios starting at the New Den, and ironically, both missed golden chances within the six yard box during the match. Given that Forest are 12 points clear of the relegation zone, I expect that one or indeed both of the aforementioned players will be allowed a sustained run in the side to prove their worth before season’s end.

Karanka’s men had a great chance to right the wrongs of Friday, when they faced struggling Barnsley on Monday. However, monsoon like conditions in the early hours of that very morning made the City Ground pitch unplayable. The call to postpone the match was made around 12pm and it was one that triggered an absolutely commendable gesture by Nottingham Forest Football Club.

A decision was made to round up all of the hot food from the kiosks around the stadium concourses, have it passed for health and safety, and deliver it to appropriate charities. This in its self was logistically difficult, because the club then had to find the right people to box it up and deliver it thereafter.

I later learnt that the NFFC staff volunteered to stay behind and make all of this happen, when they were under absolutely no obligation to do so. Which is an absolutely amazing thing to hear, and tells you that everyone at the club, from the chairman down to the vendors, are pulling in the same direction.

Forest tweeted a picture of staff at the Friary holding some of the donations they’d received; the Friary is an organisation which is working tirelessly to end homelessness. So, I popped down to speak with their CEO Sam Crawford about the whole episode and what it meant to his organisation.

Sam had the following to say; “We received the call from Forest around 12.30pm, telling us that they were expecting close to 28,000 supporters, and that they’d like to donate some of the food that had been prepared for the game. We said we’d be very grateful for around 200 portions, and they kindly brought down a couple of hundred pies and sausage rolls, which was absolutely great.”

Sam proceeded to tell me that The Friary provide advice, help and support for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. They cater for over 300 visits a week, which equates to over 15,000 visits a year. That’s a statistic which has been heavily influenced by things such as benefit sanctions, other welfare reform measures and the cost of living being on the increase.

He also told me that there’s a wide range of people affected, from those sleeping rough to those in private rented accommodation, who are at risk.

The following statistic told me everything I needed to know about the challenge faced by charities like the Friary, Homelessness has increased by a staggering 169% since 2010!

I asked Sam if he thought that Nottingham Forest’s actions had raised awareness regarding homelessness? He said: “Absolutely, as a Forest fan myself, I’m very aware of the traction anything Forest related has. Forest getting actively involved in trying to address the issue really does help raise the profile locally, which we’re very appreciative of.”

When I explained to Sam that the NFFC staff had undertaken the operation voluntarily, he was pleasantly surprised. Sam said “It’s a really good example of a football club actively appreciating their role in the community, we’re very thankful to the NFFC staff!”