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Dungannon Charitable Trust

Football club helps collect supplies for their chaplain's church foodbank

by Cara Bentley

The Dungannon Swifts, a semi-professional football team in Dungannon in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, started asking for food at the end of September after a relationship was developed with their sports chaplain Jason Scott, who is also the senior pastor of Vineyard Church Dungannon.

As a football fan, Jason had been attending games since he and his wife planted the church in 2004.

He told Premier: "I went there for an outlet when I first moved the town to plant the church and then built the relationship and then, after a while, I became the club chaplain through sports chaplaincy UK and out of the relationship they knew about our food bank and the need for our local community."

The church's 'Reach Foodbank' aims to supply food to those who need it, as well as toiletries, clothing, household items and furniture and it runs every Thursday.

Having spoken with Mr Scott, the Swifts have now started advertising for the foodbank at all their home games, inviting fans to leave packets of food at the turnstiles where they then get picked up after the game by the church.

Mr Scott said: "They put it out through their social media via the club's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, just asking fans and supporters when they come to their home game to bring tinned, non-perishable goods with them to supply the local food during the home game they come and they leave them in an area and then straight after that game or very soon we pick it up and take it to the foodbank."

The pastor explained that he didn't expect fans to take it on board as much as they did: "I was surprised because usually on a Saturday most people have other things on their mind, particularly sports fans. So, collecting food and bringing it to the game was probably not on their list of things to do on that day but we were overwhelmed in a good way by the generosity of people and it's something easy that they can buy into without feeling stretched or over committed. It's picking up a few extra things at the supermarket and bringing them along to game on a Saturday."

He added that it often led to deeper conversations as well: "It's an easy conversation starter. Most people - regardless of whether they have a belief system or are interested in God or not - most people are connected to compassion, they're wired that way."

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