21st Dec 2018

Generous businesses have been at the heart of the Community Foundation since it was set up in 1988. Proctor & Gamble, which has been in North East England for over 80 years, is a good example.

P&G established a fund at the Community Foundation in 1995 and has awarded over £1 million in support. Recently, the staff panel at P&G chose to make a special award to support Newcastle and Gateshead Arts Studio – known as Chilli Studios – a charity helping 200 people a year improve their mental health through creative projects and activities. Individuals are referred by GPs, community mental health teams and hospitals. While the charity has earned income, it needs grants to support staffing. The P&G Fund is enabling the Studios to retain expert staff to support people in crisis, develop peer support and volunteering.

Ringtons first became involved with the Community Foundation in 1995, but the family beverage firm has operated in the region for over a century with a strong tradition of giving back. “My great grandfather was a renowned philanthropist and built our company on this ethos,” says Colin Smith, Ringtons’ Managing Director. “And today we work with the Community Foundation to identify the causes on our doorstep.” Ringtons has built endowment funds of over £1.6 million which have seen more than £0.5m awarded to local charities. Houghton Town Bowling Club in Sunderland is one to benefit. Ivy Wilson, a former women’s bowling champion, is a member. She had to give up the sport when complications with septicaemia resulted in her losing fingers and toes. Now, thanks to the purchase of ten specially adapted wheelchairs, the Club can support Ivy and other disabled people to take part. “I’m the longest serving lady member of this club but had to stop due to my health,” Ivy explains. “The wheelchair will make a difference and I can’t wait to start playing and hopefully win some trophies!”

Newcastle Building Society has donated nearly £3 million to charitable causes, a big part through its 25-year relationship with the Community Foundation, which holds the Society’s community fund. Wansbeck Valley Food Bank operates out of several sites in south-east Northumberland and is one of many local organisations to benefit. It received support to extend its scheme which provides vouchers to be redeemed at local butchers. This means some of the most vulnerable members of the community get a healthier diet by eating fresh produce and get more choice than in standard food parcels. Andrew Haigh is CEO of the Society and a trustee of the Foundation. "Our Community Fund supports groups that customers tell us are making an important local difference,” he says. “And we’re ambitious to grow our support through the Community Foundation. We currently donate 0.1% of balances in our Community Saver accounts to the Fund, and this is supplemented by regular colleague fundraising.”

In 2018, Newcastle Building Society introduced a new scheme within the Community Foundation fund to improve buildings. “We understand that access to vibrant, practical spaces is key to vibrant community life,” Andrew explains. “So, whether it’s repairing a leaking roof, improving access, or resurfacing a pothole-filled car park, we're open to ideas.” The first grant of this kind is going to Springfield Community Association, based in Forest Hall, North Tyneside. The Association hosts 20 local groups offering activities that reach 1,700 people a year.  Funding will reshape the inside of the building which is overdue an overhaul, providing a more comfortable and accessible space as well as a new café.

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