In the men's changing rooms, donated toilet paper is stacked two-thirds up to the ceiling.

Outside large donated fridges and freezers whir away as they keep donated meat cool.

And around the corner of the little cinder block clubrooms of Nelson Suburbs Football Club, trays of donated bread are waiting to be collected by some of the thousands forced to leave their homes by the devastating forest fire south of Nelson that is now in its sixth day.

Those trays of bread make Janine Thompson smile.

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"People were coming in and saying 'there's no bread in Pak'nSave. I said 'that's because we've got it all here'."

Volunteers Anna Perry-Smith, left, and Janine Thompson in their temporary supermarket of donated goods for fire evacuees at the Nelson Suburbs football club. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Volunteers Anna Perry-Smith, left, and Janine Thompson in their temporary supermarket of donated goods for fire evacuees at the Nelson Suburbs football club. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Thompson, who lives in Richmond but spent a decade in Wakefield - where 860 homes were evacuated on Friday - is one of around 10 permanent volunteers, and countless other helpers coming and going, who have been receiving and distributing donated meals and groceries since the clubrooms cleaner Margaret Goff set up the volunteer-led relief centre late Tuesday.

The initial focus was helping feed the emergency responders, from firefighters to water tanker drivers to people manning road cordons, but with the New Zealand Defence Force
setting up a kitchen in Brightwater the focus had switched to helping evacuees facing another night away from their homes.

The main clubroom this afternoon resembled a mini-supermarket, with rows of folding tables holding necessities ranging from toothpaste and coffee to cereal and pet food.

So many have been helped, and have helped, that Thompson can't put a number on it.

Some evacuees collected items themselves, some were given pre-packed boxes, some were so upset the volunteers needed to walk beside them, Thompson said.

"People come in in tears. Some need a hug and a cup of tea and to sit down before they can do anything. A lot are so distraught they don't know what they need. We'll walk around with them."

Donated food had come from all corners of the community, from fast food outlets such as KFC, Subway and Dominos to church groups that had "spent all day making lasagne" to regular people who had seen the request for items on the Nelson Snippets Facebook page and just wanted to help.

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"We were about to close for the night and we got a call ... they said 'I've just spent $600 on everything you need, please don't close'."

Wakefield evacuees Caitlyn, 16, and Carena Scott with their box of supplies from the supermarket of donated goods for fire evacuees at the Nelson Suburbs football Club. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wakefield evacuees Caitlyn, 16, and Carena Scott with their box of supplies from the supermarket of donated goods for fire evacuees at the Nelson Suburbs football Club. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Carena Scott, her 16-year-old daughter and her 87-year-old mum are among those who have come to the clubrooms after being evacuated from Wakefield.

With some comfort food and a big bag of bird feed for some of their 200 birds, now scattered around the district, Scott said she was so grateful for the "unbelievable support" from the community.

"It's been amazing."

That continued as the Herald spoke to the displaced family, when a stranger walking into the clubrooms interrupted to ask 'What can I buy for you, what do you need?'

'We're okay, thank you', Scott replied, prompting the woman to then offer her holiday home.

The generosity is no surprise to Thompson - she's seen it every day, from the person who bought in 10 blocks of cheese when they heard there was a shortage to others who have donated even though Thompson knows they're going through their own hard times.

That community spirit, and the efforts of those working so hard to put out the fires, was keeping her going through 12 to 14 hour days punctuated by only five hours sleep.

If they can keep going, so can she.

"When I feel like not coming in, I think of them. This is something I can do. This is how I can contribute."