Community groups supported by Co-op

Community projects handed vital funding by the Society have revealed how they are still supporting people in need despite restrictions faced due to the Coronavirus.

Our Community Dividend Fund recently shared out £50,000 between 29 good causes to ensure they can continue their vital community working during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The money has been spent by charities and organisations to ensure that events, activities and support that otherwise might have been postponed or cancelled can still go ahead and provide a vital boost to the local community.

Square Peg Activities, based in Sutton Coldfield, is an organisation that works with youngsters with additional needs in an effort to increase their social skills.

It was awarded £2,000 to buy vital sensory play equipment to support its work in the community but has now used the funding to ensure it can continue to support the children it works with online.

Sharon Needham, from the organisation, said: “Covid-19 has impacted us somewhat, we are no longer able to provide the face-to-face activities which we provided on a weekly basis and we miss these hugely as do our families.

“We refuse to be beaten by this and will not stop contact with our service users during this awful time and have adapted how we provide services to the best we can.

“The way we have continued to use the funding is by paying for costs for staff to conduct several communications per week. These are by way of Facebook Live and also Zoom meetings with the families.

“This gives an opportunity to speak to the group where we have a theme each time such as jokes or pictures. They also give the children the opportunity to communicate with each other directly and directly with us. We also offer time with parents who want to have a connected discussion around issues that are concerning them right now such as home schooling, returning to school and how to keep their children entertained.”

Community Organisation Empower. Promote. Inspire. Consultancy (EPIC) was handed £1,500 for two new laptops and a projector to support a project which aims to help tackle deprivation and unemployment across the Tyseley area of Birmingham.

Najma Begum, from EPIC, said: “We are using the laptops from home to host weekly online chat sessions with the people we support.

“We are helping people find out about the help available in their community at this time and also providing many with e-learning opportunities.”

Wells-next-the-Sea Men’s Shed, in Norfolk, was awarded £2,000 to enhance the work it does to cut down on isolation and loneliness in the local area by encouraging people to come together and build friendships and share skills and knowledge.

After being forced to close their building, they came up with innovative ways of continuing to help all those involved.

David Hissey, of the Wells-next-the-Sea Mens Shed, said: “We had just acquired the tools when lockdown occurred, so we had little chance to capitalise on the new equipment. As a consequence, we are working in our own ‘satellite’ sheds supporting assorted community projects and making items from recycled wood and pallets which we hope to sell later when we can reopen.

“We have also set up a member tool hire system for the cordless tools, with appropriate safety and security measures for pickup and handling. This way our members have been able to be creative, albeit at home.

“So we are managing to soldier on with projects but missing the social benefits and the banter in the shed.”

Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op Chief Executive, said: “Now more than ever being a co-operative business that sits at the heart of our communities is so important.

“We are delighted that these great projects and good causes have been handed a grant that will allow them to continue their fantastic work in the community at this uncertain time.”

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