Pride of NZ: Family recognised for soup kitchen

By Greg Taipari

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The Swannell family Stephanie, 17 (left), Kevin, Kiri and 7-year-old twins Zedekiah and Rachel helping those in need at their soup kitchen. Photo/Paul Taylor
The Swannell family Stephanie, 17 (left), Kevin, Kiri and 7-year-old twins Zedekiah and Rachel helping those in need at their soup kitchen. Photo/Paul Taylor

A strong belief that "people should love people" has seen Kiri Swannell's family nominated for this year's Pride of New Zealand award.

The Taradale family have been helping feed the homeless by running a mobile soup kitchen in Clive Square in Napier. Serving hearty winter-warming food to those living rough.

Mrs Swannell grew up working in the hospitality industry and with her husband, Kevin, opened their "soup truck" following a chance meeting one Sunday evening.

"We saw this homeless guy across a car park and we wondered who he was because we had never seen any homeless people in Taradale before," she said.

"That night we spent until about 12.30am just talking to him. We made him a cup of tea, cooked some noodles to eat and gave him a blanket."

Mrs Swannell said she wanted to get her family involved in the community and running a soup kitchen was a natural way to help people where they need it most.

"I think it's only natural that people should love people and care about people and it doesn't seem to be like that and [with the soup kitchen] we've hit an area where hopefully we can bring that back."

The Pride of New Zealand Awards is a joint venture with The Hits radio station and TSB Bank; supported by the Herald and APN regional newspapers.

There are six categories honouring bravery and heroism, community spirit, lifetime achievement, emergency services, top fundraisers and those making a difference for the environment.

Mrs Swannell's family has been nominated for the community spirit category.

She said she was overwhelmed when told they had been nominated.

"I was pretty overwhelmed and it is pretty awesome. It wasn't something we did for any recognition.

"We've just been plodding along for the last year really and it's nothing [recognition] that we've really wanted. It just needed to be done. Yeah it's pretty awesome."

Having their children involved in the kitchen was important Mrs Swannell said.

"We have all the kids come out with us except for if somebody is crook or a teenager decides to stay home ... we explain to them [the homeless] are not like us, to have a roof over their head and food on the table."

Mrs Swannell said their next project was to get an emergency shelter set up in Hawke's Bay.

"An emergency shelter is not for people to come and live.

"It is an emergency shelter for example just open at night times and that's not just looking at a certain range of people. That's looking at anybody - male, female, young or old."

For more information visit prideofnzawards.co.nz.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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