Meet the trio feeding one of NZ's poorest communities

By Contributor

Photo / Robyn Edie, Stuff

By Louisa Steyl

The Goodall family, of Invercargill, know what it’s like to struggle financially; and they know how difficult it is to ask for help.

So now that they’re in a position to, they’re “paying it forward” and quietly helping where they can.

Trinity and Glen Goodall, together with Jerilee Roberts, run weekly community barbecues in south Invercagill – but working in the social services industry they’re also able to advise families where to find support and sometimes just lend an ear.

As the cost of living crisis hits home, there’s been a lot more people who need their help, they say.

Glen Goodall recalls one man who picked up a burger and a couple of sausages and said that would be his food for the next few days.

One young couple were grateful for the barbecue because they couldn’t afford meat, Trinity says.

Oftentimes children and teenagers pitch up and then bring their parents the following week.

Trinity relied on services like this for a time when she was a teen living on the streets.

Then, when Glen lost his job suddenly just before Christmas in 2015, the family were put forward for the Salvation Army’s Adopt a Family for Christmas programme.

“They filled our car,” Trinity recalls, pointing to their station wagon. “I cried.”

There were presents for mom, dad, the children, hampers and grocery and fuel vouchers.

“It didn’t feel right,” Glen recalls, while Trinity adds that they almost wanted to pass some donations on to help more families in need.

“We decided that once we got on our feet, we were going to do something to give back.”

They started by cooking for Salvation Army Invercargill’s soup kitchen after noticing that many of the donated meals weren’t suitable for diabetics.

But when the soup kitchen closed, they started their weekly barbecues at Queen’s Park just before the 2020 lockdown, using a gazebo for cover when the city’s inclement weather wasn’t playing along.

“When William Booth started [the Salvation Army] he didn’t care if it was raining. He didn’t care if it was safe. He just wanted to get out there and feed people,” Trinity says.

On one occasion, some 50 people stopped by the barbecue – but many were students and travellers.

So after a Covid-19 restriction-enforced hiatus, the Goodalls and Roberts moved their operation to Russell Square in south Invercargill where they’ve been up-and-running again for two months.

“Here we support people who need it,” Trinity says.

South Invercargill never quite recovered economically from the closure of the Ocean Beach freezing works in 1991 and the suburbs surrounding Russell Square are classified as quintile five areas on the University of Auckland Index of Multiple Deprivation (with five being the most deprived).

The trio started Southern Outreach with money from their own pockets and Glen remembers cooking for people on a tiny three-legged barbecue in the beginning.

But over time, people and businesses have donated a gazebo, a bigger barbecue, and food.

One woman – Melissa Dawson – even started cooking soup that she hands out in take home containers, while school children have been running fundraisers.

“To remember everyone that’s helped is quite hard,” Glen said.

Trinity dreams of one day operating a mobile “food ambulance” like the Salvation Army used to run when she was a teen, so Southern Outreach can cook for people all over Invercargill.

“Buildings put barriers up," she says, while Glen adds: “A lot of people don’t want to be seen. They’re proud.”