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Charities 'pitch' for share of £80,000

A ‘pitch to the panel’ event saw more than £80,000 handed out to seven charities to help them provide practical solutions to isolation and loneliness in the community.

The event, at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead on Monday evening, was run by the Berkshire Community Foundation (BCF) which made combating the causes and effects of loneliness a priority for the year.

Each charity gave a three-minute presentation on its own project to tackle loneliness to win a share of an £80,338 pot raised by the BCF, an umbrella charity that ensures charitable donations are used to give the greatest benefit.

Slough youth charity Aik Saath received £10,000 for its ‘Isolution’ project aimed at tackling loneliness and isolation among teenagers by delivering 25 free activities for young people a week.

Alzheimer’s Dementia Care, which serves East Berkshire, was awarded £14,400, for a ‘befriending’ service, which changes the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families.

Re:Charge R&R, received £10,000 to extend the reach of its three drop-in centres to help more people affected by isolation, such as pensioners and new mums.

And Citizens Advice Maidenhead and Windsor was given £12,100 to help fund an outreach service linked to the mobile library which aimed to reach 1,000 people in rural areas who did not have access to its services.

Other beneficiaries included Drugfam, which supports drug addicts and their families, who often suffer from terrible isolation. It was given £9,602 to fund its seven-day-a-week helpline.

ASD Family Help received £14,236 so it can continue to run a project providing social evenings and trips for youngsters on the autistic spectrum, while transport charity Readibus was awarded £10,000 for its Loneliness Buster Initiative which provides ‘friendship trips’ – short social outings – for those who have difficulty using public transport.

The panel was made up of BCF trustees Lady Catherine Stevenson and Susie Tremlett, vice presidents Harry Henderson and Jane Wates, and Express editor Martin Trepte.

The aim had originally been to distribute £75,000 at the event but extra funding secured by the BCF meant grants could be topped up according to voting from the audience using tokens to support their favourite project.

The grants were presented by James Puxley, the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire. He praised the BCF for supporting the projects to help people whose lives are afflicted by loneliness.

He said: “I think we have all learned something about how hard life can be for some people even in this supposedly affluent county of Berkshire.”

BCF chief executive Gerry Lejeune said the total raised by the foundation to support loneliness projects in the year had been £191,500. She added: “We have all been inspired by the presentations.

“The evening was a huge success and we were delighted to be able to give out so much in grants. We completely smashed our target which shows how great the need is to tackle isolation and loneliness.”

The evening was compered by Radio Berkshire sports presenter Ady Williams.

The BCF project for the coming year will be to address mental health issues in adults and children across the county.

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