142 projects helped by council’s £3m community fund

Dozens of exciting community projects in Stoke-on-Trent can now get off the ground after they received a share of £1.2m from the final round of the city council’s Community Investment Fund.

The news means the fund, which was launched in 2017, has now handed out its entire £3m budget, helping a total of 142 groups, clubs and organisations in all corners of the city along the way through three funding rounds.

Under the fund, grants of up to £50,000 were made available, which could be spent on new equipment or improvements to building and infrastructure. Projects to benefit from the fund have ranged from bringing disused land back to life for the benefit of the community, to improving facilities for the city’s young footballers and protecting Stoke-on-Trent’s only Grade I-listed building.

A total of 60 projects have now received the news that their third-round application was successful. The Macari Foundation charity, which runs the Macari Centre in Hanley, is celebrating after securing £40,000. The money will be used to buy a minibus to support outreach work and take centre users out on day trips and to appointments. Some of the money will also go on new equipment for the building.

Ex-Stoke City manager Lou Macari, who set up the homeless shelter with the support of the city council in 2016, said: “This is brilliant news for us. We’re absolutely delighted to receive the money from the council. The minibus will mean we can take people out to different places on day trips, many will be places they’ve never been to before. It will allow us to take them out of the only environment they’re used to, and break the daily cycle they might find themselves in. I took a group of 30 homeless people to Blackpool on a coach previously and they all had such a fantastic day. Some of them had never seen the sea before, things that most people take for granted.

“We’ll also be able to use the minibus to get people to appointments, whether they are medical appointments or related to employment opportunities. The money we have received is really going to help the people who come to the centre and I think the minibus will make a big difference.”

Other projects to benefit from the final round of the fund include:

· Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank: £50,000 – on top of a £30,000 grant they received in the previous round. The group will be spending the £80,000 on improvements to their warehouse – including a new roof, heating systems, kitchen, security and electrics – so they can develop the service and continue to support residents.

· Brookhouse Ubberley: £41,000 to install a noticeboard and defibrillator at Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre, and install fencing and safety flooring at a popular children’s park off Beverley Drive.

· Framescape Community Project: £50,000 to bring the former NatWest bank building in Stoke back to life, turning it into an animation school that aims to provide high-quality training in a variety of digital arts.

· Sylvester Community Trust: £50,000 to re-cultivate an area of ex-mining land on Oxford Road, in Fegg Hayes, and transform it into an inclusive community growing area.

· Queensberry Amateur Boxing Club: £44,000 to create a community hub and kitchen for Trent Vale that will give people a place to meet for a chat over a cup of tea.

· Guru Narak Temple: £50,000 to refurbish Guru Narak Community Centre, in Stoke, which will allow the community to meet in a warm and welcoming environment, and ensure a range of community events can continue from the building.

· Our Burslem: £25,000 to buy market stalls and associated equipment to put on a weekly market in the town, from 3pm to 8pm.

Conservative Councillor and founder of the scheme,  Abi Brown, deputy leader of the city council, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have been able to support 142 groups and projects across the city with a share of £3 million from our community fund. You’re always a bit nervous when you launch something like this because you don’t know what the response will be like, but it’s been incredible and some of the projects and ideas we have supported have been truly innovative and inspiring. I’ve personally visited many of the projects myself and seen the impact the fund has had first hand. It’s great to know the fund is going to have lasting, long-term benefits for people, groups and communities for years to come.”

Only Stoke Conservatives are committed to continuing the scheme if voters return a Conservative controlled Council on Thursday 2nd May.

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