Former homeless man inspires $100k donation to Auckland City Mission

A former homeless man has inspired a $100,000 donation to the Auckland City Mission.  

With the help of a zimmer frame, Bryne Gregory has walked more than 300 kilometres in the lead-up to Christmas to raise money for the social services provider, which he credits with saving his life. 

Gregory's efforts prompted a big cheque that was delivered to the charity on Friday, in the true spirit of Christmas.

"Bryne is someone who is part of the Mission, he volunteers for us [and] in the past, has actually experienced homelessness and slept rough and struggled with the reality of alcohol addiction," Auckland City Missioner Helen Robinson told Newshub.

After being supported by the City Mission, the former firefighter and Surf Lifesaver is now giving back.

His Givealittle page has surpassed $11,000, but on Friday, there was a Christmas miracle that Gregory never saw coming.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Gregory couldn't believe his ears when Auckland-based tech company, Non-Fungible Labs, topped up his fundraising efforts with $100,000.

"As a company we always make it a mission to try to give back and support people that are taking these great initiatives and this just seemed like a perfect opportunity for us," Alex Smeele, Non-Fungible Labs CEO, told Newshub.

Robinson said it was "a wonderful gift" to receive on Christmas Eve - and it couldn't have come soon enough. 

"The Mission has distributed, or is distributing every week four times the amount of what we were before COVID, or even double of what we were doing at the end of July and early August," Robinson said.

COVID-19 cancelled the Mission's annual Christmas lunch on Saturday for the second year running, but with the help of fast-food giant Nandos, hundreds of free meals and presents were handed out - takeaway style.  

"They do an amazing job at this time of year for the community and we're just grateful to be able to tap into that," Patrick Abbot, Nandos area manager, told Newshub.

In the capital, volunteers spent the week packing food hampers to support families in the community. 

Wellington's City Mission also opened a Christmas toy store, allowing more than 3000 children the chance to open a present from Santa. 

Like many sit-down lunches around the country, the capital's main event in Aro Valley was canned. Ready-made meals were put together instead - organisers almost didn't go ahead.

"And then we thought, well look at the need - you only need to look around to think they need help," said Lindy Pacey from Room at the Inn.

At the end of the day, it's the generosity of others that makes Christmas a little more special.