Having been at the heart of their community for more than 140 years, Ashton United’s off-field efforts are for life, not just for Christmas.

But the usual seasonal upsurge in demand at the club’s food pantry is just one factor making the work of the Robins’ hardy band of volunteers as vital as ever.

A newly obtained community van has allowed the Robins to literally go the extra mile in the run-up to the festive period, collecting and dropping off donations for the Tameside Toy Appeal as well as the food pantry, which is run entirely by Ashton United volunteers.

United’s Hurst Cross home is 14 miles from where Marcus Rashford grew up in Wythenshawe and the sterling work done by the Manchester United striker on raising awareness of child hunger is being echoed further around the M60.

“We’re in an area where we have to respond to problems quickly and we have the trust of local people, so they’ll come and tell us their problems,” said Ashton vice-chairman Steve Hobson.

“They’ll come to the club and we try and signpost them to somewhere they can get a solution.

“Demand for the food pantry is starting to rise, not just because of Christmas but also because of the withdrawal of the £20 in universal credit – more people are finding it hard.

“We want the community to run the pantry, so we’ve trained up our volunteers, helped them get charitable status, and they now run it with our support.

“In April, we moved the facility from the club to a park a few hundred yards away but the same people are involved and it’s very much a club thing.

“People around here have nothing, so giving them the opportunity to run a pantry by themselves gives them confidence. They soon become different people and it’s so rewarding to see.”

The Robins are one of more than 200 clubs supported by Pitching In, a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme established by Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain.

In addition to financial support, the initiative places a focus on the importance of community and volunteering in non-league football and Hobson hopes the close-knit links between the club and its surroundings will only continue to move in one direction.

“We have about 80 volunteers registered across the club, doing all sorts,” he said.

“Next year we’ll appoint a training development co-ordinator to speak to our volunteers and find out what their training needs are, then we’ll look to put them through relevant courses.

“We’re really proud of what we do in the community – it’s part of our DNA – and that is reciprocated. People here have pride in their local football club.”

Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details, see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/