While many parts of Lewes and the neighbouring villages ranging from Rodmell in the south to Newick in the north are prospering, there are significant areas of deprivation and individuals in need. For example, in the villages, older people often feel isolated and value the ability to go to weekly lunch clubs, or keep fit groups, or indeed the opportunity to chat with others. In the case of those with disabilities then, in the absence of rural bus services, special transport can help them attend classes and groups. Food banks are another service facing growing demands, with three operating in Lewes alone, helping many hundreds of people. The young have also suffered by cutbacks with far fewer youth clubs and related activities, while a charity to support the homeless has recently been set up in Lewes. The growing need for these facilities, and related advice on topics such as the rising cost of energy and heating homes, and debt advice, as evidenced by requests for help at the Citizens Advice Bureau, which are at record levels.
We are fortunate that there are over 100 local community groups and charities who, along with their hundreds of volunteers, help meet these many of these local needs. However, these groups and their volunteers can only operate and survive with continuing financial support, which increasingly has to come from the local community, as public funding contracts. The Lewes Fund was established in 2012 to help facilitate charitable giving and to act as a fundraiser for these many local groups. The FundFund draws on the knowledge and support of the local community, working together to help reduce disadvantage and build stronger, and more sustainable communities for the future.
The generosity of over 50 local contributors has already enabled us to give out over £60,000 in grants to local community groups. We also now have £200,000 invested in our Endowment Fund, which is managed by Sussex Community Foundation. The income from this Fund enables grants to be made in future years.
Grant beneficiaries meeting the needs of the young, the old, the disadvantaged and other groups in Lewes, Chailey, Newick and Ringmer have received grants worth £350 to £5,000; the majority being for sums under £1,000. For many groups, small amounts of money can make a considerable difference. For example, the Chatterbox Group of elderly residents in Newick were delighted to receive a small grant to buy a gaming console. They use this for ten pin bowling competitions, dancing and many other activities increasing their social activities and helping keep fit. Ringmer Disability is a social group for men and women with disabilities. They meet regularly to have a chat and a ‘cuppa’, have talks by a diverse range of speakers, along with exercise activities including New Age Kurling. A Lewes Fund grant has helped to pay for transport for outings to attractions across the South-East, as well as shopping destinations. Pippa’s Group in Lewes has benefitted from grants to help support its activities, providing an affordable, happy, highly staffed and stimulating pre-school for children (2-5 years), including those with disabilities. This enables them to enter school with the best possible start. They also offer support and advice to parents by providing a weekly Parent Support Group.
These are examples of the more than 30 groups that have been supported by the Lewes Fund, which include Chai-ley Youth Group, Dancing for Fun and Fitness, Diversity Lewes, Fitzjohn’s Food Bank, Homelink helping home-less people into housing, Join Us network of older residents, Landport Food Bank, Landport Youth Centre, Lewes Bridge Junior Football Club; Lewes Citizens Ad-vice, Lewes Low Cost Counselling Services, the Queen’s award-winning, Oyster Project’s voluntary community action by people with physical disability of all ages and older people, Patina – Children’s Moving on Parade, Railway Land learning difficulties initiative, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support, Smarter Living, St Mary’s Church Hall social centre, the Scouts, St Peter and St James Hospice, Talking News for the blind and those with poor sight, and Westgate Chapel which provides premises for community groups. We now want to reach those other local groups who may not yet be aware of our grants.
However, the demand for help exceeds the current funds available. To help us meet future needs and expand the number of grants we can make, we welcome new donations to the FundFund, especially those made via standing orders. Contributions usually attract Gift Aid, in-creasing their value by 25%; in the case of businesses, donations can generally be offset against tax. Cheques should be made payable to SCF/Lewes Fund. For a donation form, please see our web site www.lewesfund.org.uk
There is three grant round for 2020, with closing dates on 10th January for spring decisions, 1st May for summer decisions, and 11th September for autumn decisions. Grant applications ideally up to the value of £2,000, should be made via the Sussex Com-munity Foundation website
sussexgiving.org.uk/apply-for-grants/how-it-works/ which helps minimise our costs. Applications for small grants will also be considered during the year.
The FundFund is overseen by a steering group of locals: Richard Pearson (Chair), Michael Bell, Keith Hollis, Pe-ter Mettyear, Ruth O’Keeffe, Caroline Tower, and the Lewes Mayor (ex officio).
For more information about the Lewes Fund, email Richard Pearson – firstname.lastname@example.org