It’s a Friday afternoon when we meet Campbell Hill, John Paine, Jason Rowling and Rhys Arrowsmith, leaders of Good Neighbour and if anyone deserves a beer, it’s these guys.
INTERVIEW TALIA WALDEGRAVE PHOTOS SHAWN ROLTONN
Good Neighbour has three arms:
NEIGHBOURHOOD PROJECTS: Campbell coordinates projects within the community. With his ear to the ground and an impressive network to draw from, he is always finding ways to connect people.
FOOD RESCUE: John coordinates the dynamic food rescue trio with the assistance of his wife, Jackie, and Brookfield New World owner, Lavina Good. So far they have diverted 140 tonnes of food from being wasted and distributed this to 35 not-for-profit organisations.
COMMUNITY GARDENS: Good Neighbour has established community gardens in both Moffat Road and Welcome Bay Road, overseen by Andrea Green with Al and Anne Gourley.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PROJECTS: Putting neighbour back in the ‘hood
We are like community brokers. We can’t do everything but we can facilitate it. We’ll hear a story and immediately know who we can help, or who might be able to help us.
I walked around my neighbourhood and asked myself: where are the needs? I didn’t have to wait long because my wife phoned to tell me we’d been burgled again. It was the second time in ten days. I thought: man. We’re trying to break into the community and the community are breaking into us.
When they found the guy, I put my hand up and asked the judge if I could mentor him. Unless somebody did something, he was just going to do it again.
The judge gave him 50 hours with me but I could not get him to come and do a single hour. Driving home one day, I was really looking forward to my dinner. I realised that young guy probably wasn’t. So I filled up three boxes with food and when I turned up at his house, he was on the front lawn arguing with his mother that there was nothing to eat. When I showed them what I’d brought, she cried, and he hung his head. That was the moment he agreed to the community service; that generosity broke him.
The next day he turned up to work at my place wearing the shirt he’d stolen from me! We ended up spending the day together, eating, swimming – and he gave me 15 hours of his time.
This was very early on in the piece and we didn’t really have any projects on the go, then I read about Rob and Tory in the paper. This couple had just returned from overseas and all their firewood had been stolen, so we took a trailer load around to them. That’s when the firewood part of Neighbourhood Projects started.
The first year, we gave away over 120 tonnes of firewood. We weren’t organised or sustainable enough, so over summer we worked out how to do it better. We decided to have a firewood day once a month, invite the charities, and put on morning tea. That same night I was at a birthday party and told a guy about what we do, saying how much more efficient we’d be with a firewood processor. He phoned me two weeks later and said if we could get a tractor, he’d donate the processor. It’s worth more than $60,000 and it’s arriving mid-June.
I spend a lot of time listening to people; that’s where lots of of our projects take seed. One of the youths who came to our first firewood day was a 16-year-old boy. I asked where his mum was; he said ‘She’s sick, she can’t come today.’ I followed up on it and as it turned out, she was in hospital. I asked if she’d like a visitor and she said ‘Yes. No one has visited me.’ We’ve now been delivering firewood to her for the past two years.
Firewood delivery is now one of the biggest projects that we do, and knowing that people are going to be warm in winter really motivates us.
FOOD RESCUE: Feeding the machine
One of the biggest misconceptions about us is that we are a food bank. Instead, we empower organisations as charities. We receive food donations from a variety of supermarkets, manufacturers, wholesalers, a pack-house and local cafés, then we sort it and send to 35 local charities who distribute it to people they are working alongside.
From a corporate perspective, we have strict food and safety guidelines to meet. We are an approved Fonterra recipient as well as with Progressive and Foodstuffs. Those big players in the food industry look hard at us to ensure that the handling is done in a responsible and caring way and that what we are doing is right.
We also work closely with the Tauranga District Council and Regional Council. Both fund Good Neighbour.
Food Rescue really is a machine. We did over a tonne today and I am knackered. We are receiving three tonnes a week but within six months we could be receiving double that and we now have an issue with capacity.
We were initially working out of our own homes but because we have grown so rapidly, we are in the throes of securing new premises that suit our needs, while adhering to our ethics of sustainability. The bulk volume of stock coming through the door means that we need a purpose-built facility with a commercial kitchen to better use the perishable food, and the dream is to work with the organisations we supply, to teach employable skills to their clients. Giving out food is great, but it’s not solving the problem. We need to be able to educate people about cooking and nutrition.
COMMUNITY GARDENS: Reaping what you sow
We have over 100 kids come through from Welcome Bay school every week. Andrea has great plans to develop a family-friendly area with chickens, a kai shelter with a gas-fired hangi and a pizza oven.
Food Rescue, Neighbourhood Projects and Community Gardens are all vehicles to show practical care to everyone in the community. Ultimately, we are about empowering people and pushing them forward, while maintaining dignity. We want the community to be inspired to do the same.
We are about connecting people who are struggling, offering them hope and joy, and it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone hits that season. That’s where the different arms of the organisation are so good. We can help with anything, and the arms often cross over. We are constantly problem-solving or thinking of ways to tighten procedures and streamline the way things are done. Thanks to our sound business connections, our own experience and our network of over 200 volunteers, we have the ability to manage this. It’s rewarding to work with this greatly dedicated team of fun mavericks.
The Ladies’ Long Charity Lunch, to be held at the ASB Arena on 24th June will be raising money for the Te Aranui Trust, and Good Neighbour. UNO. are extremely proud sponsors of this event.
If you or your business would like to chat to Good Neighbour and find out what you can do to help in any way, contact [email protected] or call 027 2531873.