Over £100,000 in grants from the East of England Co-op’s Community Cares Fund awarded to 30 organisations across the region

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The grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 will give a much-needed boost in support to local groups working hard to support our communities through this challenging time.

Initially set up in April 2020, in response to the pandemic, the retailer’s Community Cares Fund helps local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to create or adapt services that will have a positive impact on communities across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.

The Community Cares Fund is supplemented by generous East of England Co-op members who, through donating their annual dividend, have so far contributed nearly £190,000 to the fund since it opened last year.

This latest round of funding, which was open for applications from April to May 2021, aims to support groups looking to address at least one of these key areas:

  • Community action – including the development of physical and virtual spaces and services that bring communities together.
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Food justice for all – including access to, and sharing knowledge about good quality, nutritious food.

Niall O’Keeffe, Joint Chief Executive of the East of England Co-op said: “There has been some truly inspirational work happening across our region to support local communities throughout the pandemic. We’re delighted to be able to support our local groups and organisations to grow and adapt their services as we move out of lockdown.”

The day-to-day administration of the East of England Co-op’s Community Cares Fund is carried out by Suffolk Community Foundation and distributed by Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex Community Foundations on behalf of the East of England Co-op. 

This latest round of funding received an overwhelming number of applications, demonstrating both the need and desire of community groups to refocus and increase the support they offer as the country transitions into this next phase of the pandemic.

Niall added: “We had initially planned to run a second round of applications this Summer. However, after receiving such an unprecedented volume of applications we decided to combine the grants available from both rounds to make sure we could support as many organisations as possible at this crucial time.

“It’s clear that the criteria we set for applications in April really resonated with organisations as they look to re-focus and expand their work with our communities during this period of change. We’re really excited to see the difference our grant recipients will be able to make.”

Community Cares Fund grants have been awarded to a diverse range of community groups that are making a difference to the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds across our region. A full list of successful grant recipients can be found at: eastofengland.coop/grantsawards

Suffolk Artlink will use the grant to help build an online engagement platform, improving access to creative and educational wellbeing activities. Alex Casey, their Co-Director said: “Inclusivity is at the heart of our work. Over the past year, online access and delivery have become essential for all, but particularly the vulnerable people we work with. We are delighted to have received support from the East of England Co-op to provide our services on a new digital platform. Their support will significantly increase the reach and impact of our work by allowing us to offer people new ways to engage with our creative programmes.”

Clare Francis, Project Manager at New-U, Norfolk, who will be setting up a new series of workshops to help unemployed young people improve their confidence and self-esteem said: "New-U are thrilled to have our vital work with unemployed young people supported by East of England Co-op. This funding will help New-U to run our ‘You've Got This 2’ workshops, giving young people the skills and training needed to move closer to employment."

Dance Network Association, Essex, will use their grant to create new classes for older adults and those living with Dementia and Parkinson's. Gemma Wright, CEO and Founder of Dance Network Association said: "The funding we have received from the Community Cares Fund will allow us to deliver a programme of work after such a difficult year for all. Our project is specifically for those that have been shielding or isolating due to living with conditions such as Parkinson's and Dementia. We will be delivering 'in person' activities from September 2021 which will support these people to reengage in physical and social activity in Colchester and find the joy and benefits of dancing. The fund will specifically support the organisation to evaluate the benefits of our dance programmes on those with lived conditions and support us to profile these benefits for future-proofing our crucial work in the community."

The next round of funding from the East of England Co-op Community Cares Fund is due to open in Autumn 2021. In the meantime, all updates, including stories and news from current grant recipients can be found at: eastofengland.coop/community