Leeds United 'not only a football club' - Holbeck Together charity praises good deeds
Donating a truck full of food, hosting a Christmas party for residents, volunteering to do the gardening, and giving up time for weekly walks.
These might not be the first activities you would associate with a Premier League football club, but Leeds United's staff and players have done all this and more for Holbeck Together.
Elissa Newman, who heads up the charity, said: "We’ve got that relationship where you can pick up the phone and if they can help, they will. They’re not only a football club, they’re showing their social responsibility."
Whites chief executive Angus Kinnear has always had an open door policy, she said, recalling the time she asked whether the charity could use one of the club's suites for a Christmas celebration.
Ms Newman said: "A few years ago, I said, ‘We’d like to provide lunch for 95 people at Elland Road, it would be great if local residents could come along when they’re so steeped in the history of the club and their lives are so entwined with the club’. Angus just said, ‘With pleasure’ and did it all for free.
"That’s been an annual event now, although obviously we couldn’t do it during Covid. They’re very generous and a good time was had by all.
"Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn once said when we were at one of the lunches that it’s a very good thing that they look out of the ground and into the community.
"They’re very approachable at the Leeds United Foundation and the club. We’ve got a real relationship with them, we’re in the same postcode."
The club securing its longed-for promotion to the top flight last summer has done nothing to alter that willingness to make a difference where it can.
Holbeck Together offers a variety of services, activities and opportunities, ranging from holiday clubs and outreach support to food parcels and a social supermarket.
Ms Newman said: "During Covid, we could get a phone call to say, ‘We’ve got 3,000 packets of crisps, would you like them?’ One day, we got a phone call to say, ‘We’ve got a truck full of food, could you take it?’ In terms of support to us, in any way they can, they always think about us."
A befriending programme has seen club staff paired up with local residents for weekly walks since the autumn, with a number of those taking part also invited along to Elland Road for personal tours led by Mr Kinnear or director of football Victor Orta.
Their focus on the community extends throughout the whole organisation too, from the boardroom to the club's academy.
"We’ve got two planters outside the community centre - you could fall in them and not come out, they’re huge," Ms Newman said. "We arranged to get a donated rockery and hundreds of plants, and the young players from the academy came down one Friday afternoon with all the staff and they planted all the plants for us.
"It’s just lovely. It’s really great for the morale of the community and our staff team that people like Victor or Angus will come down to the office and chat. That they will take the time out when they’re so busy to take people around the ground, it speaks for itself.
"How do you articulate that we’ve got this new Premier League football club but it’s so real and on the ground with us? How lovely that they embrace the community."
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