John Sykes Foundation awards the first Covid-19 Relief Fund Grants to Reading charities – In Your Area

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The John Sykes Foundation has been proactively awarding Covid-19 Relief Fund grants to charities in Reading
Reading Association for the Blind with their grant
Submitted by John Sykes Foundation
The John Sykes Foundation has been proactively awarding Covid-19 Relief Fund grants since June 2. The project will see 50 grants, each being £1,000, donated to local charities and organisations in Reading, Berkshire, that have been heavily disrupted by Covid-19.
Among those who have been awarded thus far include Whitley Amateur Boxing Club, a charity working with young local people, established in 2015 by former professional boxer Nathan Ward, himself from Whitley.
He strives to give back to his community by teaching kids the noble art of boxing and simultaneously doing his utmost to guard young kids against gangs and crime by keeping them off the streets and giving them a safe environment to learn the sport alongside respect and self-discipline.
The club, which is registered with England Boxing, is currently facing homelessness due to the current owners selling the building. The club is raising funds to enable them to secure a home for the boxing club and for the young people of Whitley both now and for the generations coming through, along with vital equipment including a new canvas for the ring.
On receiving the grant, Nathan said: “The gym keeps me sane, and seeing the kids winning and enjoying themselves puts a smile on my face because most of the children who come to the club are not expected to achieve great things.
“When I first started the club, people said I was mad because of its location, but myself and the other coaches are just trying to do our bit to give back. Thank you for all of your help.”
Reading charity, No5 Young People, of whom were recently granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for special commendation for their work throughout the pandemic, provides free, confidential, professional counselling, and outreach to children and young people aged 11-25 suffering mental distress in the Reading area.
This year sees No5 celebrating their 50th Anniversary, and to mark this occasion they will be running a series of creative anniversary projects which support and protect mental wellbeing.
Carly Newman, operations and relationships manager, said: “No5 has worked in partnership with Reading Museum for 18 months in preparation for this celebration, having exclusive use of their ‘Community Cabinet’ to showcase our history over the summer.
“The grant from the John Sykes Foundation will invite four young people on our counselling waiting list not assessed as critical – and therefore likely to wait the longest – to take part.
“Without any support, these young people would be disadvantaged further, their symptoms likely to worsen, and wellbeing deteriorate. Like all of our creative preventative work, our Anniversary Stories project will allow us to step in early and prevent mental health problems from taking root or escalating.
“It will also foster friendships, improve young people’s confidence and self-esteem, improve physical and mental health, and empower young people by giving them a platform and way to learn, share and celebrate their own experiences.”
Reading Association for the Blind (RAB), based at Walford Hall in Carey Street, also applied for funding to continue to run its outreach service which is committed to assisting those with sight loss to build the confidence to live an independent and meaningful life.
The John Sykes Foundation was extremely impressed by the continued work that the Association had carried out during the pandemic, utilising their skills and resources as best as possible, and the grant was awarded to further fund the work the outreach service does.
Matthew Thomas, fundraiser at RAB said: “This is an emotional and distressing time for many and requires a high number of hours of support. It will also help towards the costs of transporting those with sight loss to our Community Hall where they will be able to socialise and build relationships with those in a similar position.
“It is also vitally important that we use the funding to ensure we continue to highlight those going through sight loss in the community and make ourselves easily accessible to all who need our services.
“As a small community charity, this money will make a great positive difference to our organisation, allowing for us to have a higher level of security around the continuation of running our vital outreach service.
“For the individuals we help through our outreach service it is life-changing. For those going through sight loss, it can be a scary and lonely time resulting in social isolation. Our services help support individuals regain the confidence and ability to continue living their lives to the fullest.
“We also provide a social community group where they can build social relationships and help alleviate some of the strain isolation has had on their mental health.”
Coley Park Community Association was the latest organisation in Reading to be awarded a Covid-19 Relief Fund grant. The charity, based at the community centre on Wensley Road in Coley, serves as the designated area for various opportunities for locals.
The centre as a whole, prior to the pandemic, was beginning to thrive with an enrichment of diverse activities to support all ages and backgrounds including trips to the beach and fun days.
Kirsty Charge, chair and trustee of Coley Park Community Association, explained: “Over the past eighteen months many people have been isolated and withdrawn from society, and had a real lack of engagement.
“The Association applied for a grant from the John Sykes Foundation to be used to create two events that will encourage people to get together and enjoy each other’s company in a fun setting: A day trip to the seaside and a fun day to celebrate the reopening of the centre and its refurbishment.”
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John Sykes, founder and chair of trustees of the John Sykes Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have been able to award Covid-19 Relief Fund Grants to already a diverse group of organisations and to be able to assist and reach the local community of Reading where it is most needed.
“We are looking forward to receiving more applications and helping further, and it is touching to see how many of our community depend on these organisations, with our wish at the John Sykes Foundation being in supporting the increased demand since the start of the pandemic.”
To read more about the grants that have been awarded, or if you work or belong to a local charity or group, and would like to apply, find out more here.
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