Grower's gift gets apple kids back in business
Children robbed of their means to make pocket money have had their faith restored by the kindness of a stranger.
Apple grower Monte Neal has donated 20 kilograms of apples from his Huapai orchard to Rhys and Laken Donovan after reading about their plight in a Nor-west News story.
He personally delivered the freshly picked gala and pacific beauty varieties to the youngsters' Swanson home on Monday after school.
Mr Neal was horrified to learn that heartless thieves had stripped four apple trees overnight from the children's orchard.
Rhys, 10, and Laken, 8, had been selling apples outside their home to make a few dollars.
The brazen theft has touched a raw nerve with Mr Neal whose 16-hectare orchard has also been hit.
Thieves pinched 100kg of plums from his Trigg Rd orchard and a neighbour on State Highway 16 at Huapai had hundreds of kilograms of plums stolen.
"There's been stealing from commercial growers in the area for some time," the La Ronde Orchard manager says.
"It's one thing stealing off commercial premises but it's a low-life that steals off the family garden where it's kids looking after the trees.
"That's below the belt in my book."
The father of three says he sympathises because he knows how much his daughters love working to earn a little pocket-money.
"They have the advantage where they can help me in the packing shed or on the orchard.
"I know the effort these kids give to earn something."
Mr Neal handpicked the 20kg to replace the amount he estimated four laden trees would hold.
"Delicious!" Laken says. She gave Mr Neal a chocolate cupcake to say thanks.
Her brother was just talking about how hungry he was on the way home from school when Mr Neal turned up.
"I was surprised and happy and pretty hungry," Rhys says.
Mr Neal says fruit thefts are not only limited to the nor-west.
"Being part of the apple industry I know a lot of theft goes on in the Hawkes Bay and Kerikeri as well.
"It's a blight on society. We've had to up our security on the orchard."