Helping local charities to survive challenging times

3rd September 2020

Charities and voluntary organisations struggling to survive and keep their services going during these unprecedented and challenging times, have been given a lifeline by Essex Community Foundation (ECF), which has distributed grants totalling almost £5 million over the past 12 months.

City of Chelmsford Mencap, the Essex-wide CVS voluntary services network and the Colchester-based organisation, African Families in the UK, are among those given urgent funding from ECF, a leading independent charitable trust.

Ever since it was founded in 1996, ECF has been at the forefront of supporting voluntary and community organisations in Essex by awarding grants from the charitable funds it manages on behalf of philanthropic families, individuals, businesses and public agencies.

Now ECF’s work is more vital than ever, as the coronavirus pandemic has had the devastating double effect of hitting the finances of charities and voluntary groups at a time when they are trying to meet an increasing demand.

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “We have a long-established and close relationship with the voluntary sector in Essex and are acutely aware that they are heading towards a cliff-edge, desperately needing core funding to survive. The coronavirus pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on fundraising events and many charities and voluntary organisations are struggling to keep going.

“The fact that we have been able to award grants totalling almost £5 million over the past year, as well as taking immediate action through our Essex Coronavirus Response and Recovery Programme, has been a lifeline for many voluntary sector groups in the county.

“We have been especially pleased to support projects set up by volunteers and community hubs that have helped vulnerable people and also organisations that quickly adapted their services to meet local needs.  We know there will be further difficult times ahead for the voluntary sector, but we will be there to help, now and in the future.

“Even though we awarded a record amount over the last 12 months, we are still not able to fund all of the requests that we receive.  If local people or businesses want to support charities and community groups in Essex, please contact us through our website, by e-mail or telephone.  We also encourage voluntary organisations and community groups to keep in contact and follow us on social media as we are promoting new funding opportunities all of the time.”

Funding from ECF enabled City of Chelmsford Mencap to establish a “Virtual Academy” during lockdown. Grace Lidstone, services manager for the charity said: “We had to close our lifelong learning service and social clubs for adults with a learning disability.

“The Virtual Academy has helped prevent service users from losing skills and becoming socially isolated. We have been able to provide our usual timetable online or by telephone, and specialist staff made regular welfare checks on the most vulnerable people.  The grant from ECF helped to fund staff, tutors and additional resources.”

African Families in the UK, based in Colchester, adapted its services for the BAME community also received funding through ECF’s COVID-19 response initiative.

Rachel Walton, BAME Community Development Consultant and co-Founder of African Families in the UK said: “Initial panic buying of foods and delays in deliveries during lockdown, caused difficulties in finding culturally appropriate food.

“The funding we received from ECF enabled us to help 52 families, 15 of whom are from the Bangladeshi community, providing food and support.  This brought so many families peace of mind, but we have many who still require our assistance.

“We have also been able to provide training and help people get back to work as this is affecting their household income and ability to feed their family.”

The Essex-wide Community Voluntary Service (CVS) Network  has played a pivotal role in the county throughout the Coronavirus pandemic,  rising to the challenge of supporting the voluntary sector and their communities and co-ordinating a local response to help people in need.  Chelmsford CVS was among the organisations across the county to receive a grant from ECF and the funding helped launch a volunteer initiative.

Lorraine Jarvis, CEO of Chelmsford CVS said: “The community response to help those isolated due to the pandemic, has been incredible, especially at a very local level. As a charity that supports voluntary action, we received hundreds of calls from people wanting to help or seeking guidance on how to set up a neighbourhood support group.

“We checked and signed up 176 amazing volunteers who began picking up requests for support from our helpline.  We worked in partnership with Chelmsford City Council and their staff and council members rallied quickly, with over 100 coming forward to help with emergency food delivery.

“Within days of lockdown, people began to self-mobilise and over 30 new volunteer groups were also ready to help their neighbours. Thousands of local people, in a co‑ordinated effort, helped those isolated and vulnerable across Chelmsford.   Our heartfelt thanks and that of the community, go to all.”

For more information about ECF, how to support local charities through them or to apply for a grant, visit their website or call 01245 355947.