Supporting rural communities

15th March 2019

The way of life in rural areas of Essex has changed dramatically in recent years and people of all ages have been affected by cuts in services, lack of facilities and social isolation.

Improving the lives of those living in these parts of the county has been a major challenge, but grants given by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF) have helped residents make a real difference in their communities.

ECF has supported a wide range of projects in rural Essex, including transport schemes, community shops and pubs, community agents, mobile pre-schools, outreach advice schemes and village hall improvement projects.

Many of the grants given to Essex-based charities and community groups from the 150 funds currently managed by ECF are helping to make life better for people in rural areas.

The Essex Rural Fund was set up with ECF in 2011 by The Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE).  To date, a total of £60,000 has been awarded from the fund to support rural projects.

Nick Shuttleworth, RCCE’s executive director, said: “Many Essex villages present a picture of tranquillity which masks the poor access to services and isolation experienced by many rural people today.

“We decided to join forces with Essex Community Foundation to create the Essex Rural Fund to help local groups find their own answers to these problems”.

Bradwell-on-Sea community shop is among the rural initiatives given financial support from the Essex Rural Fund and other funds managed by ECF.

Brian Main, chairman of Bradwell-on-Sea Community Shop Association said: “The grants have underpinned the entire shop refurbishment project to the benefit of the whole village, visitors and tourists. We are so grateful to ECF for their continuing support.”

The shop stocks a wide range of goods and provides post office services as well as a “coffee and chat” room where local crafts can be displayed. Access has been improved at the shop and a small outdoor seating area has been created.  The latest grant from ECF for the shop has been spent on a new storage building to replace a dilapidated leaky shed.

The Essex Rural Fund was also involved in providing a grant of £7,000 to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Uttlesford.  The money enabled them to employ a specialist adviser to help people with disabilities to access benefits and includes a home visiting service for people who are unable to travel to the CAB’s offices.  The demand for this service is increasing each year and it is hoped that it can be expanded across Essex.

Another grant, awarded from ECF’s Acorn Fund, is ensuring that local food is not going to waste by helping a community fridge project in Halstead to get off the ground.

A grant of £900 paid for a fridge where residents, local supermarkets and restaurants can leave surplus food which can be picked up by anyone in the community, free of charge.

The idea behind the scheme is to tackle the problem of food waste and the fridge is proving to be a very popular addition to the town.  A team of volunteers monitor the fridge and keep it clean.

Sarah Greatorex, a trustee for Halstead Community Fridge Trust which runs the project said: “We were so grateful for the grant from ECF, as we didn’t have the money to buy a fridge to start the project.  It is being used by the whole community, not just by people who are struggling financially or are homeless.”

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “The focus of our work is to improve the lives of people in Essex and we are delighted that the grants we have been able to award through various funds we manage, including the Essex Rural Fund, are helping to achieve this aim.

“People in rural areas in our county have shown great resilience and resourcefulness and through our grantmaking we will continue to give them vital support.”