Father and son give back to Benalla community

By Simon Ruppert

Father-and-son team Brian Warton and Tarkyn Sloley spent last Thursday clocking up kilometres around Benalla delivering food to people experiencing financial hardship.

The Mansfield men share a bond with Benalla, with Brian having played several seasons with the All-Blacks — even picking up the team's Best Clubman award back in October.

“The idea came up as I thought that I needed to do something nice, especially for the Benalla community,” Brian said.

“And that's because the Benalla community really embraced me over the last three years.

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“My whole life I’ve lived with people helping me out.

“I’ve lived a certain lifestyle where I had no choice but to ask people for help.”

Working as a window cleaner in the Mansfield area, Brian quickly saw his jobs cut back as businesses closed their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions.

And Tarkyn's employers were left with no alternative but to step-down some staff, which saw his role temporarily cut.

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“The money we have used for this is the extra $550 which we both received on top of the normal Centrelink payment,” Brian said.

“I applied for Centrelink just for a back-up, for family reasons,” Brian said.

“When all the shops closed I lost most of my work. My son lost work, he lost his job.

“He’s now got a couple of days back. But we didn’t struggle, so when the money came through I thought, do we really need this?

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“And we were thinking about what could we do with the extra.

“So I put a post on Facebook, on Buy Swap Sell Benalla, and it just went beserk.”

Brian and Tarkyn were contacted by 13 local families around Benalla and district.

So they divided the money they had put aside and worked out what they could buy with it.

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Which is when the Mansfield business community got involved.

“I would like to mention Daryl and Irene from High Country Bakery in Mansfied who donated the bread. And Alpine Butchers in Mansfield also,” Brian said.

“They helped me out big time, and gave much more than we could pay for.

“With the meat packs I only had to pay half the normal price.

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“It’s not the first time High Country Bakery and Alpine Butchers have done this type of thing.

“When I used to play footy in Benalla I was raffling off four meat packs every Thursday, with all the funds going back into the club and it was all donated by the butcher and bakery.

“There were nights I was bringing across meat pie packs, sausage rolls, pasties, even the odd doughnut.

“So it actually didn’t take long to organise this because I had the connections already.

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“I decided this is what I'm going to do and they said ‘yep no worries’ and jumped on board.”

The coronavirus pandemic has affected people across the country regardless of their background or employment, and Brian said this was one of the reasons that convinced him to do his bit to help.

“It doesn’t matter if you live 10-feet high or 10-feet down, this coronavirus has put everyone on the same level,” Brian said.

“There’s people that are in hardship at the moment that have no idea how to deal with it, as they've never had to rely on things like Centrelink.

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“So I thought the best I could do is spend the government's money giving it back to the community.

“We've got bread, and rolls baked fresh overnight. And every address we go to with the meat packs will also get some of those.

“Every little bit is going to help.

“I expect today to be quite confronting because every person we are going to be dealing with is in the position of hardship.

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“So I’ll probably have mixed emotions by the end of the day. I’m feeling it already.

“I’ve woke up with no food in my fridge before so I know what it’s like.

“A few don’t like to ask for help, but I just say, you don’t have to tell me what the problem is, if you need help just say and I’ll be there.

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“And it's great to hear the appreciation from people. The head of the Benalla RSL actually saw the post and messaged me to congratulate me for my efforts.

“But I'm just glad to be able to do this for the Benalla community.”

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