Help arrives by the bagful for pensioner

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2013
Barry Fort
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

FULL TUMMIES: The cupboards are no longer bare for pensioner couple Sandra Watson and Barry Fort, who were overwhelmed by the kind donations they received from across New Zealand yesterday.

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Generous people across New Zealand opened their wallets, pantries and even their crock-pots to help a diabetic pensioner who was denied a food grant.

Yesterday, tins of food, frozen meat and home cooked meals were donated to New Plymouth couple Barry Fort and Sandra Watson after they went public with their plight.

Last week, Fort, 72, applied for $100 food grant through the Senior Services arm of Work and Income but was turned down because he had $153 left of his bank overdraft.

His partner of 40 years was worried about about his health and said he needed to eat regularly to keep his glucose levels normal and avoid a diabetic coma.

When the story made national headlines yesterday the Taranaki Daily News was inundated with phone calls, emails and offers of support for the pair.

Among the haul of donations were seven bags of food, a chilly bin of home-kill meat and $600 in cash and supermarket vouchers.

People from as far as Auckland and Tauranga ordered groceries online to be sent to the couple's home.

Fort said he was overwhelmed with the response.

"I was astounded at all of this, I just can't get over it. I don't know these people and yet they have been so kind to me.

"I just don't know what to say," he said.

Watson fought back tears to express her gratitude.

"I just want to thank everybody, thank them from the bottom of my heart."

Masie Tunnicliff made a meat and vegetable casserole for the couple and Fort was looking forward to eating it for dinner tonight.

The New Plymouth woman runs an organisation out of her home called called Making Ends Meet and said she was moved by Fort's story.

"I made this casserole today with his diabetes in mind.

"After reading the story I just wanted to help him in some way."

New Plymouth man Bob Ellis took the couple shopping yesterday afternoon and bought a trolley full of groceries for them.

"We didn't know him. He just phoned and offered to take us to the supermarket. I told him I would wash his car for him to thank him," Watson said.

The couple had received so much food they said they would be donating some of it to Foodbank.

After speaking to the Daily News last week they went to Foodbank and received a parcel to get them through the weekend.

"It will be nice to give something back," Watson said.

Mike Merrick, manager of Foodbank New Plymouth, said the organisation had about 100 people through the door each month.

"Only about 2 per cent of my clients are 65 or older. But there is anecdotal evidence that suggests elderly people are struggling.

"I often have their neighbours ring me and tell me what is happening. It seems the elderly are too proud to come in," he said.

Merrick said he had delivered secret food parcels to pensioners at night.

The New Plymouth Foodbank had full shelves at the moment but were always willing to accept more donations - including cash to help the organisation pay bills.

"We have a very generous community and a superb team of volunteers, so we are ready to help anyone who is in need," he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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