Turning potential into excellence – that’s The Southampton Way. On the pitch, that means taking young players and fashioning them into world-class footballers; off the pitch, it is Saints Foundation’s mission to empower people in our community to score goals of their own.
Since Saints Foundation set out on that mission 20 years ago, many driven and passionate people have helped unlock Saints Foundation’s potential. From humble beginnings involving young people in football, we’ve evolved and expanded our support to help all ages and abilities here in Southampton. A key driver of that development has been Tina Croucher, whose support over the last two decades has seen her guide big picture decisions as one of the charity’s trustees, support with raising huge totals at charity fundraisers, and assist the delivery of our life-changing projects out in the community.
Like the charity, Tina’s involvement with Saints Foundation started with the football coaching projects. “My eldest was around 14 when he joined the holiday courses and by age 16, he was doing a bit of coaching for the Foundation. This was about 18 years ago, so at the very start of the Foundation. I’ve always had a background of supporting charities, so it felt like a natural fit, particularly as I’m a big Saints fan.”
Even back then, Saints Foundation’s potential was evident to Tina. “When I first started, we didn’t support anywhere near the number of people we do now, but the Foundation was always looking for ways to reach out as wide into the community as possible. Being able to use the name of Southampton Football Club allowed us to connect with people who wouldn’t usually want to accept support. We used football to nourish the community.”
In the two decades that followed, Tina’s involvement in the charity grew and she was involved in many big milestones, including volunteering at the very first Saints Foundation charity dinner and Big Bike Challenge. “It kind of escalated from there; the more we did, the more I wanted to be involved. At the beginning, I wasn’t on the trustee board but I suppose I was unofficially doing something similar – working alongside the team and supporting with anything they needed. I loved it.”
As the board of trustees evolved, Tina joined the line-up – a role she continues to this day. “There are five of us and we meet approximately every three months. We are there to support the decisions the leadership team want to make and help explore new roads they want to take. We support them while making sure everything is being done correctly – we’re crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s, if you like!”
But despite her role at the very top of the organisation, Tina hasn’t lost sight of the importance of rolling up her sleeves and getting involved on the ground. “I want to involve myself as much as I can in supporting the events we put on. I’ve got so many good memories – I helped take a group of participants to Belgium to take part in a tournament with their homeless community, I’ve been on all the bike rides, I volunteer at all the charity dinners.”
Tina’s pride at the evolution of the charity is clear as she reflects on the past two decades. “The more recent work we’ve done with older people has been fantastic. Until you’re involved in something like Saints Foundation you don’t realise how alone a lot of people are. Yes, they may have a home and food and even family, but on a day-to-day basis they are sitting at home on their own and it’s so great they can be involved in something like Senior Saints.
“It’s the connection between people, and that’s been even more crucial during COVID. I’m very proud of how we adapted so quickly to help our city.” Tina herself volunteered to make wellbeing calls to isolated participants, packed up food packages for those in need with FareShare, and went into hospitals to support the vaccination rollout in late 2020 and early 2021. “That was amazing. We had 80-year-olds coming in, just desperate to get this injection in their arm because they had barely left the house in 9 months. Everyone was so grateful because without volunteers these things just don’t happen. Even though it came at a really awful time, it has to be one of the best things I’ve done with Saints Foundation.”
20 years has come around fast, but for Tina, a lot has been achieved in a short time. “I’m very proud of what the Foundation has grown into. Unless you’ve been involved since those early years, a lot of people don’t realise how much this charity has given to the community. And as it’s grown, we can give even more back. To get to 20 years, it’s a real feat.”