Essex Community Foundation

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Continuing a legacy of local giving

14th November 2019

A couple who played a major part in the history of Chelmsford have left a legacy which is ensuring that their passion for philanthropic work lives on in Essex.

Thomas Gepp was a prominent solicitor in the town and was the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the well-known firm, Gepp Solicitors in Chelmsford, which was established in 1768.

Thomas and his wife Evelyn were closely involved with many voluntary and community groups throughout Essex. They were dedicated to Essex and determined that their support for people in the county should continue.

Evelyn died in 1996 and Thomas established a fund in the family’s name with the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF) in 2008, three years before he died.

The couple’s wish, that their philanthropic giving should continue, is being carried out through the Thomas and Evelyn Gepp Charitable Fund which, to date, has awarded grants of more than £27,000 to community groups and voluntary organisations, mainly in the Chelmsford and Uttlesford areas where the family lived and worked.

The couple’s three daughters; Sarah, Annabel and Christie, now make decisions on grants to be awarded from the fund. They work closely with ECF to give support to causes that their parents wanted to help, including uniformed groups such as the scouts, brownies and guides. 

Sarah, who returned to live in the family home in Saffron Walden after Thomas died said: “Our parents were completely devoted to supporting people in Essex.

“Last year, my husband John and I attended an evening run by Essex Boys and Girls Clubs, one of the organisations that received support from our parents’ fund.  Awards were presented to young people who had taken part in the Respect project which helps those who are struggling to remain engaged at school, have challenging behaviour, a difficult home life and lack of self-esteem.  

“The individual stories from the young people who took part in the project were inspiring and we were so pleased to have been able to give them support.  I know that my parents would have approved, and we are so proud that their good work will continue in their name in the county they loved.”

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “Thomas and Evelyn Gepp led interesting, full lives and were at the centre of life in Chelmsford for many years. They were shining examples of what can be achieved by people who have a philanthropic nature.

“It is a privilege and a pleasure to manage the fund set up in their name. There were a number of voluntary and community organisations throughout Essex in which they were deeply interested and, through the grants we can award from their fund, their passion for supporting local communities will be continued.

“The role of Under Sheriff of Essex has been carried out by a partner at Gepp Solicitors for over 120 years.   Thomas served as Under Sheriff for 25 years before retiring 1988 and ECF has close links with the Under Sheriff and each High Sheriff during their year of appointment.  We have managed the High Sheriff’s Fund since 1997 which gives recognition and award grants annually to organisations dedicated to reducing crime and promoting community safety in Essex.

“Gepp’s is still thriving in Chelmsford and the fund established in Thomas and Evelyn’s name is an ongoing force for good in the county.”

Recent grants awarded by ECF from The Thomas and Evelyn Gepp Charitable Fund include:

  • £2,400 for Essex Boys and Girls Clubs to support the Respect project for young people aged 13 who are struggling to remain engaged at school, have challenging behaviour, difficult home life and lack of self-esteem. 
  • £900 for the 8th Chelmsford Scout Group,
  • £900 contributing to the cost of facilities at a newly built Scout Hut on the Melbourne Estate in Chelmsford.
  • £1,200 for Essex County Scouts, to support two young people with the cost of attending the Australian Scout Jamboree in 2019.
  • £909 for Chelmer Village Brownies, to replace camping equipment, craft materials and games used by the club. 

Thomas Gepp was born in 1919 and grew up in Essex. He spent his childhood at Hill House in Hatfield Peverel and was educated at Sunningdale, Eton College and at New College, Oxford, where he read law.

The Second World War interrupted his studies and, at the age of 19, he volunteered to join the Essex Yeomanry. He spent time training in England before being involved in the landing on Gold Beach on D Day in June 1944.

The Essex Yeomanry was attached to 8th Armoured Brigade, part of 30 Corps. Thomas was a Battery Captain throughout the campaign, finishing up in Bremen. He was de-mobilised in 1946, after which he immediately set about taking his solicitor’s exams. Having passed these, he joined the family firm of Gepp and Sons in Chelmsford.

Evelyn Phillips Castle was born in 1917 in Suffolk. She was educated at Benenden School in Kent. At the start of the Second World War, she joined the F.A.N.Y.’s (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), spending time in Colchester, driving staff cars and ambulances.

Later she transferred to the W.R.A.C. (Women’s Royal Army Corp) where she was involved in training drivers. She ended her service with the WRAC in Kiel, Germany.

Although Thomas and Evelyn both started their war service in Colchester and ended it in Kiel, it wasn’t until a few years later that they finally met. They married in 1951 and had three daughters. The family made their home in Margaret Roding before moving to Saffron Walden in 1995.

If you would like to know more about setting up a charitable fund in the name of your family or business, please call a member of the team at ECF on 01245 355947.

Daisy’s Diary to help modern day women

6th November 2019

A diary penned by a girl almost 140 years ago has been turned into a book which will raise funds to help modern-day women and girls in Essex.

The diary, written by Daisy Dobell, covering 12 years from 1888 to 1900, was discovered by her grandson, George Courtauld (pictured) in a rarely-used desk at his home in Colne Engaine, near Halstead.  He decided it was too good to remain hidden away in a drawer and that it should be published.

The book, called “Daisy’s Diary,” edited by George, is now on sale.  Some of the proceeds will go towards the EWAG Charitable Fund which is managed by the independent charitable trust Essex Community Foundation (ECF) and support charities and voluntary organisations promoting self-esteem and wellbeing for women and girls.

Another book produced by George, a former High Sheriff of Essex and a vice-president of ECF, called “The Rambles of a Fat Bulldog,” is a follow-up of his three “Fat Bulldog Travel” books written when he was a Queen’s Messenger, will also raise funds for the same cause.

George, whose family is well known for philanthropy across many generations, discovered Daisy’s diaries when, after reaching his 80th birthday, and having spent most of his life “collecting things”, he decided that sorting through items at home should be a priority.

He said: “When rummaging through an old and rarely used desk I found, at the back of the bottom drawer, three volumes of diaries headed Daisy Dobell, 1888 - 1900, Whittington Court, Cheltenham. Daisy was my grandmother.  I opened one of the volumes and was immediately enchanted, amused and astonished. I read through all 64,000 words in one sitting.

“The diary reveals Daisy’s personality as delightful, charming and naive, but also shrewd and funny, sometimes not intentionally.

“It is the record of a girl developing from a child to a woman. It traces the increasing momentum of her life from the slow, almost dreamlike days of early childhood through the burgeoning awareness of an adolescent, to the burst of activity as she becomes a woman and finally a wife.

“Daisy was the daughter of a brewer who owned several public houses in Gloucestershire and started her diary when she was 12 years old.

“Her family was considered rather bohemian and, although well brought up, Daisy can be surprisingly passionate, unlike the conventional image of the Victorian maiden.

“Her diary was too good to moulder unseen at the back of a drawer and I decided to publish her memoirs and introduce her to other people who may love and laugh with her over 139 years later.”

George’s other recently published book, “The Rambles of a Fat Bulldog,” recounts his adventures over the past two decades, including his time as High Sheriff of Essex.

It is a welcome sequel to his original Fat Bulldog Travel books, written when he was a Queen’s Messenger, which involved travelling all over the world delivering items on behalf of the Queen to various British embassies.

Daisy’s Diary and The Rambles of a Fat Bulldog are both available from Amazon, the EWAG website and some local bookshops priced £10 and £12 respectively.  Proceeds from the sale of both books will boost the EWAG Charitable Fund, established with ECF in 2010 by the Essex Women’s Advisory Group to combat negative stereotypes and promote self-esteem in women and girls.

EWAG has raised in excess of £100,000 and grants have been made to various charities in Essex including CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) to provide counselling for women and girls affected by sexual violence; Open Road, to support women on probation from prison across Essex to re-enter society and rebuild their lives; Tendring Mental Health Support, to run women only groups for those with mental health problems; and Safer Places providing refuge and outreach support to women and their children who have experienced domestic violence.

EWAG has also supported the educational STEM project aiming to get girls and women into science and engineering.  In addition, the Fund gives regular support to Girlguiding UK Essex and the Prince’s Trust for Development Awards for girls in Essex.

ECF manages several charitable funds set up by members of the Courtauld family including:

  • Marion Ruth Courtauld Educational Fund - providing educational and cultural opportunities for young people from the Braintree area.
  • William Julien Courtauld Medical Fund - awards grants to voluntary organisations in Braintree District that need medical equipment.

To order George’s books visit www.essexwomensadvisorygroup.com/books

To find out more about Essex Community Foundation and information on how apply for grants call us on 01245 356018.

RSM staff support their local community

6th November 2019

City of Chelmsford Mencap has become the latest local charity to benefit from the support of generous staff working at the Chelmsford office of RSM, the leading national audit, tax and consulting firm.

The company makes giving back to the community a high priority and has always encouraged staff to volunteer for local charities, share their expertise and organise regular fundraising events.

The RSM Community Fund was established by the firm in 2008 with the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF) to ensure a long-term approach to their corporate social responsibility and to build on the involvement of their employees.

The endowed fund, which is invested with other funds that ECF manages, has grown steadily with enthusiastic support from the staff who have raised more than £24,000.

Jennifer Collins, private client tax manager at RSM in Chelmsford said: “Many of our employees live in and around Chelmsford and we are passionate about supporting local grassroots voluntary organisations working at the heart of their local community.

“We actively encourage our employees to get involved with our community fund and they do a fantastic job of raising money.

“As well as fundraising, we offer Payroll Giving which many of the staff have signed up to. Payroll Giving is an easy way for companies to engage their staff in corporate social responsibility. It is also a cost-effective way for staff to give to charities, as the donation comes out of their salary after National Insurance, but before tax.”

The RSM Community Fund in Chelmsford has proved to be a great example of a company making a positive impact in its local area.  Each year ECF presents the RSM team with applications from local charities and voluntary groups who are seeking funding to support their work.

The team consider the applications and decide which ones they would like to support. To date, they have agreed grants totalling over £11,000 to support a wide range of local projects and organisations.

The latest grant to be awarded is to City of Chelmsford Mencap (CCM) for £1,758 towards the cost of employing a specialist support worker.

Jennifer Collins said: “CCM is an amazing organisation that provides a wide range of support for its members.

“So many charities work with limited resources and rely on volunteers. Having qualified, paid staff provides stability for the organisation and its members and we are pleased that our grant will help Mencap to expand their team so they can support even more families.

“There is so much great work being done by local charities and voluntary groups and it would be difficult, by ourselves, to choose which ones to support. Working with ECF makes it easier for us, as they introduce us to groups and projects that we may not have heard of.

“They explain how much money is needed and why. This helps us to make decisions and we also know that if we can’t support an application or provide all the money that is required, ECF may have another fund that can be involved.  This means that organisations and charities are more likely to get the vital funds they are seeking.

“Learning about the needs of our community inspires us to do more fundraising to grow our fund, which ensures long-term support for local charities and voluntary groups.”

City of Chelmsford Mencap, based on Mildmay Road, provides services and activities for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Members enjoy leisure, social and sporting activities and are also offered welfare advice.

Grace Lidstone, Services Manager, said: “People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn than most and need additional support to develop new skills.  Unfortunately, they continue to experience lack of understanding, discrimination and difficulty accessing mainstream services.

“We work with our Members to develop life, work and social skills and, importantly, help them maximise their independence and reach their potential.

“We are so grateful for this grant as it will help us to employ another member of the team who will provide therapeutic care to those with higher needs”.

Previous grants awarded from the RSM Community Fund, through ECF, include:

  • Braintree Area Foodbank: £2,047 to help them replace a van which was stolen just before Christmas and was central to their operation.
  • CHESS: £1,222 to continue specialist work with homeless people in Chelmsford helping them to recover from trauma.
  • Families InFocus: £1,149 to continue a Saturday activity club for families who have children with disabilities and special needs.
  • Stroke Club Mid Essex: £1,000 to help support survivors of a stroke and their families.

ECF currently manages 150 charitable funds on behalf of companies, families, individuals and public agencies. 

To find out how you can set up a charitable fund in the name of your family or company to support local charities, call ECF on 01245 355947.