The administrators of a Tauranga Facebook page dedicated to helping struggling families have found the need is so overwhelming they are planning to register as an official charity.

Leanne Hollinshead, Sonya Palmer, Mar Haeata, Sheree Gunderson and Benji Cooper have been running the Pay It Forward Koha Aotearoa page since October last year and have been overwhelmed by the support and the need.

Already they have food, clothes, furniture and toys stored in 26 houses around the area and are looking for a central place to store all the goods for people to come and collect.

Mrs Hollinshead said it had grown so quickly they now needed to register as a charity to be able to get grants and help find premises.


The group originally started out offering food after she saw a need, she said.

"We actually admin the buy/sell sites. Someone put on there, 'we've got a free leftover roast meal' and within a few minutes we had hundreds of people wanting it. We thought there was a need so we started it," she said.

"There were kids starving. Especially this six weeks when school closes down.

"These kids are used to going to school and getting their breakfast there and their lunch so you know they are getting at least two meals a day."

Maureen and Geoffrey Ward began helping out with the group after receiving a food parcel from them during a difficult time and now allow their garage to be used for storage.

"We got involved in Pay it Forward because we've had that food parcel but also because we've been there. I'm a relief teacher so this time of year I don't get any work so we rely on Geoff's part time and WINZ. It's kind of humbling," she said. "When we've got a bit extra it's really good to give it away because we've been there."

Since the page was set up people had been requesting and donating more than just food, Mrs Hollinshead said.

The group has helped more than 100 families, fully kitted out two homes in Brookfield and given out 250 Christmas presents and 100 Christmas food hampers.


Those who receive help were required to fill out a form as one part of the group's protection against scammers, she said.

During the Christmas period they have supported an average of two families per day.

"This page and the people in it are literally saving people and families from being homeless and starving," Ms Hollinshead said. "Sadly we get a lot of people asking for basic necessities. Maybe their car has broken down and that repair money has meant they don't have enough to feed their kids till they get paid.

"A lot of people are surviving week-to-week out there. We are very strict about these people feeling comfortable to ask for help without being judged."

She said they had since started separate pages for people in Hawera, Hamilton and Auckland South.

Search for Pay it Forward Food, Advice & Support on Facebook to request help or offer support.