The Zurich Community Trust has made a second donation to Wiltshire Community Foundation’s fund to help voluntary groups tackle the fallout from the pandemic.
The Swindon-based funder has awarded £25,000 to the community foundation’s Swindon and Wiltshire Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund, which has awarded more than £1 million through more than 200 grants to groups across the county.
The trust also donated £25,000 last April and the community foundation’s joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said its support has been vital in helping voluntary groups respond to demand from people impacted by the crisis.
“We are very thankful for this support from Zurich, who have always shown huge generosity and awareness of the needs of the community,” she said. “We have seen many groups struggling to keep going after having to overcome so many challenges. They are seeing huge spikes in demand at same time as losing vital revenue and eating into their reserves.
“They have had to invest in new technology to switch to online contact while being unable to hold fundraising events or provide the services that bring in income. Our fund, supported by brilliant donors like Zurich, is helping to plug the gaps in their finances as well as pay towards some of the investment they have had to make in staff and equipment to adapt.”
Among the groups being supported by the find is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, which received £4,500 for its work with unemployed adults through its Building Bridges programme. Coordinator Debbie Bentley said the number of referrals has doubled since the pandemic.
“Our participants come from a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “Some have recently been homeless and looking for ways to support themselves, others have various medical conditions that have made it difficult for them to work, some have been on career breaks to undertake caring for relatives or dependants and now need to find work.
“We support them to overcome their barriers and gain confidence to find ways to become work ready.”
The grant will pay for laptops and tablets to enable them to take part in training courses and programmes designed to build their confidence. “The majority of our participants are on low incomes and cannot afford the IT to further their journey towards finding work. Often, they join in our activities using only a mobile phone,” said Ms Bentley.
Phoenix Enterprises, which provides training employment and support from more than 40 adults with mental health issues, has been helped to compensate for losing all of its income during the pandemic with a £5,000 grant.
The Elgin-based charity is sub-contracted to do order picking, assembly and packing for companies including Dyson but it has seen its income vanish during the lockdown. A major concern for trustees is the welfare of its vulnerable users who are now trapped at home, with many having to shield because of health issues.
Fundraising manager Barry Branigan said: “Most of them are isolating at home and are not able to fully understand what it is going on - and many live on their own. We decided to change our way of operating to totally support them. So we have staff manning telephones almost any hour of the day and night to deal with calls where there is distress, confusion or lack of clarity.
“A lot of them are watching TV and there are mixed messages from official services and the guidelines change daily. It is causing them a lot of confusion and uncertainty. They dwell on that and the anxiety builds up, leading to even bigger mental health problems.”
He added: “We also have video conferencing three days, where they can all join in and speak to each other as well as to our staff and that is proving quite successful because they can see their colleagues and work friends are all in the same boat.”
Swindon Wildcats in the Community, which is an offshoot of the town’s ice hockey team, has been awarded £4,650 after it lost thousands of pounds in revenue during the lockdowns. It provides ice skating sessions for schoolchildren.
Community development manager Dave Ridley said: “The funding will allow the charity to stabilise and retain staff as well as pay for outgoings which are unable to be cancelled.”
Shine Pinehurst’s youth club will have outdoor heaters to allow young people to meet outside the community centre once Covid restrictions are eased, thanks to a £1,200 grant. Youth worker Simon Halls said: “Over the last months the project has been able to support young people struggling with mental health issues including self-harm, eating disorders and acute anxiety, criminal exploitation, poverty and related family issues as well as those suffering from isolation and loneliness.
“While many of these issues would have been affecting some of the young people before Covid, the pandemic has made them far worse and access to support services is significantly restricted and issues such as isolation and the effects of poverty have become far more prevalent.”
Steve Grimmett, Head of Zurich Community Trust said: “We cannot ignore the uphill struggle that all charities have faced over the last year. Many have had to dramatically drawback on their activity and some have had to stop the tasks that help them generate income all together.
“Wiltshire Community Foundation’s service to its local communities must not be ignored and their work in helping voluntary groups respond to those severely impacted by the Covid crisis has only increased with each passing day. We are very proud to provide them financial as well as practical support – this will ensure that they can consistently keep carrying out all their fantastic work.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.