WITH their team having only won two games at Bootham Crescent all season, it might come as no surprise to the club’s fans that charity really does begin at home at York City.

While points might have been hard to come by on the pitch this season, however, the club are winning many hearts off it as Ian Bretherton, an active learning promoter at homeless charity Arc Light, movingly testified this week.

Speaking at the Park Inn launch of the club’s community Foundation department as a charity, Bretherton highlighted the instrumental role City have played in improving the lives of the region’s homeless, in particular two men ‘Stephen’ and ‘John’.

Both have had their lives transformed with the help of the football club and their Kick About sessions, aimed at providing a chance to play football for members of the community that might not, otherwise, have an opportunity to play the game.

‘Stephen’, amazingly, went on to play for England just months after he had been sleeping in an allotment shed and ‘John’ is now well on the way to realising his ambition of pursuing a career in sports leadership.

Explaining the important role City have played in changing the lives of the Arc Light hostel’s residents, Bretherton said: “We believe our hostel should provide a bed, but also a reason to get out of it, so we offer a wide-ranging programme of between 30 and 40 activities each week to help to improve people’s self-respect, confidence and mental and physical wellbeing by giving them a sense of purpose and direction.

“Football plays a very important role in that programme and the Kick About sessions York City’s coaches have put on at York St John University sports hall have made a great difference to people’s lives.

“Some students have now started to join in with us, which gives everybody a great sense of inclusion.

“That had been lost for many of our residents and it can also help rekindle the joy of playing a game of football that many have not felt for a long time. We have an Arc Light team now that play in the York In Recovery League, which was organised by York City’s Foun - dation coaches.

“We also took part in a tournament in September, which was a big step for all the players. York City is a club that wins hearts, as well as football matches.

“They have provided us with coaches, the hire of the sports hall and allowed us to do bucket collec - tions at games, as well as provide our residents with matchday tickets in return for assisting ground- staff or litter picking, which is also a great boost for their self-esteem.”

Retelling the inspirational stories of ‘Stephen’ and ‘John’, Bretherton added: “One of our players, who I will call ‘Stephen’, also took part in a five-week course aimed at improving fitness levels and skills with the support of York City.

“He got a Community Sports Leadership qualification and went on to represent England in the Homeless World Cup in Warsaw and you can imagine how proud he was to put on the Three Lions shirt. His life has moved on now and he is living independently and is in full-time employment.

“I speak to him regularly and he’s told me he would never have thought in his wildest dreams that he would play for England and that perhaps his family might even believe he has changed now.

“There was also ‘John’ – an exceptional young man who had his life turned upside down by some very difficult circumstances.

“He participated in all our activities in an exemplary manner.

“He did a Level One and Level Two course in fitness, nutrition and personal development and then applied for a Sports Leadership course with the Homeless FA. He wanted to make his individual contribution to a team effort.

“He is now hoping to get his FA Level One coaching badge, which has been funded by the York City Foundation. That will enable him to take his first steps towards a career in sports leadership.

“It is also the plan that he will become the coach of the Arc Light team and he is another example of a life recovered thanks to York City Football Club and their community team.”

The Foundation’s work with youngsters also continues to grow.

A total of 144 schools in North Yorkshire now have the opportunity to ultimately represent the club at Wembley in the Football League Kids Cup, run in association with fellow charity North Yorkshire Sport.

Girls-only tournaments are also becoming more frequent and bigger as part of the link with Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, while educational workshops are being delivered in classrooms on subjects like the FA Respect campaign and the Kick It Out initiative to combat racism.

Burton Green Primary headteacher Karen Tatham, who was also speaking at the launch, explained that, in her opinion, assistance from the Foundation helped to raise standards at her school.

“We had a ‘required improvement’ report from Ofsted and I firmly believe the support we have received from York City has helped us get a ‘good’ judgement,” she pointed out.

“The most important part, though, is the difference it has made to the kids.

“We only have a tarmac pitch at school because we don’t have the money for an all-weather pitch. Not all of our children can get to games or afford fees at junior clubs either, but the link-up with York City has allowed our kids to work with some of the best coaches in the area, which has made a big difference to a lot of our pupils.

“Our children are now able to use Canon Lee’s facilities at no cost and some of our parents are being trained up as FA Level One coaches.”

The charity will be overseen by a board of trustees that will include football club directors Jason and Sophie McGill, as well as general manager John McGhee.

Two further positions will be filled by community partners, with the club’s shirt sponsors Benenden Health set to be heavily involved too.