top of page
Recycled Paper

Our History

The organisation began in November 2015 when Gerry Forde convened a meeting in the St. Patricks Community room for 30 parishioners who wanted to help the 25 families at St Patricks School who fitted the Ministry of Education demarcation as being “under the breadline.” St Patricks/Rimu Community Group was formed with activities including mentors for families, growing veggies, visiting the elderly, running parish liturgy, loans, St Vincent de Paul connection, social and fundraising, babysitting, meat and produce, helping hand and playgroup. The original concept was to bring families into a strong parish community.


Working with the families soon revealed deep set personal issues, anxieties, isolation and sensitivity issues that required a concentrated focus. Activities gradually became solely focused on the families and a decision was taken at a general meeting in 2017 to change the name of the group to Spirit Army and open it up to the general community for volunteers and support. 


In 2018, a group of supporters offered to form a board, and Spirit Army became a registered charity. This opened up community funding options and with the support of Community Trust South, Gerry Forde was employed to run the organisation as a full-time manager. The current approach is to work individually with families through the mentor (intended to be a lifetime friend), who relays any needs that could be met by the wider community. This personal approach is supported by encouraging community and friendships among families, which is fostered through the SBS social evenings, the Pep n Step personal growth group and various opportunities to share their skills and resources with each other.

In time families move from "being helped by volunteers" to helping each other. A cooperative forms where each family gives something and receives something in return, and families look out for each other and take over many of the tasks formerly carried out by volunteers.

Our Future Strategy

Spirit Army is focused on its model of personal and community support for families and is committed to sharpening and improving how we help families. The better we are, the more families we can help. It is hoped that we will be seen as a model and pilot for other communities.

Recycled Paper

Legal Status & Structure

Spirit Army is a registered charity whose specific aim is to overcome poverty among families under the breadline.  Spirit Army was founded within the community and advocates a community approach to solving poverty.

Its approach is to work closely with a limited number of at-risk families, drawing on the skills of individuals and organisations in the community to put in place a plan forward. The organisation currently works with 23 families and has had up to 29 families in the group, families who, once they graduate, can choose to stay on as helpers for other families.

There is also a part-time paid volunteer coordinator. There are more than 100 volunteers who contribute towards the successful provision of our services and many others who donate and sponsor.

The organisation runs three large veggie gardens, a firewood service for families, a fortnightly SBS social night, emergency frozen meals, transfer of items needed by families, and trades and general help of all kinds. 

Annual costs are met by a combination of donated goods and services, business sponsorship, private donations, and funding from Community Trust South, Southern Trust, Crops for Southland, Frozen Fund, Bowls Southland and the ILT, plus funds raised by the families themselves.

More about us

Want to know more? Below are links to several publications about the work we do for our community.

bottom of page