The new year is a time for making those well-meant pledges to get fit and live a better, healthier life. We promise to be a better parent, we genuinely want to be a more considerate partner and to spend more time with family and friends. 

But how often do these resolutions make it into February? 

Melanie Craig, newly appointed chief executive of the Suffolk Community Foundation, understands our frustrations – simply because, as she points out: “It happens to everyone. But, the secret of a good new year’s resolution is to make it achievable. 

“A grand statement resolution is all very well and it’s great if you can see it through, but I fear that many of us are not terribly realistic about what we can sustain over a long period."

Melanie is encouraging everyone to contribute towards a simple resolution for 2023 that would make life in the region even more wonderful than it already is. She suggests small acts of kindness could help bring communities closer.

“It needn’t be a big showy statement. If you have time do volunteer with an organisation but, for many, life is hectic so why not do something very simple like supporting local shops and businesses? Anything that keeps the heart in a local community. Employ local tradespeople when you need specialist help. Use the local Post Office or community centre. Drop in to the local pub – it all helps. 

“It introduces people to one another, encourages communication between the generations and prevents loneliness.” 

She says loneliness, particularly in rural communities or on residential estates where the majority of people are away at work all day, is a growing problem – not only for older people but also for young mums who live in an area without large number of others in a similar situation. 

Providing areas where people can meet and talk is incredibly important both for physical and mental health. She adds that local people’s generosity is demonstrated each year with their increasing donations to the annual Surviving Winter campaign. 

“I know that people do value it because of the donations we receive for our Surviving Winter appeal. Phones ring all day long. People donate what they can afford and it all helps, We get and value everything from £5 to £15,000 which we received with one phone call. 

“We then direct it out to lunch clubs or to help with fuel payments via Citizens Advice.” 

Melanie says the bulk of donations to the foundation go to small organisations rather than big charities. “The average grant we award is £3,500 – which is nothing to the big charities, but to a small volunteer group it is a vital donation which will keep the lights on and allow them to keep doing their work.” 

She adds that the aftereffects of the pandemic still play a massive role in people’s lives. “We have tended to stop talking about the pandemic because people are sick of it, but in my three months here, I have seen that people are still nervous about mixing in large groups – particularly the elderly and the vulnerable. 

“Trust is a huge issue. People are nervous about going to places that they don’t really know, which is why the aftermath of the pandemic is still so problematic. They are much more comfortable interacting with friends and neighbours from their town or neighbourhood."

One of the most heart-warming discoveries she has encountered is the sheer number of community groups that have come together to fill an area of need.

“Nobody told them to do it, it just happened through community spirit. We may think we live in a cynical age, but people do still look out for one another, and we are here to support them. My job is to make sure that we are serving communities right across Suffolk and we are making the biggest impact we can.” 

Before Melanie took up her post at Suffolk Community Foundation, she had spent 23 years working in the NHS throughout East Anglia – working in various places in Suffolk, with a four-year stint in south Essex before ending up being responsible for NHS health care in Norfolk and Waveney.  

“During this time I got to know north Suffolk better than I ever thought I could. Being born and bred in Ipswich I think furthest I’ve ever gone in north Suffolk was a day trip to Southwold and so working in Waveney opened up a whole new side of Suffolk that I had been blissfully unaware of." 

Even though she's always been keen on community and togetherness, Melanie jokes the fact that the majority of her team were Norwich City fans did provoke a certain amount of good-natured rivalry, which manifested itself in her turning up to a ‘bonding’ team event draped in an Ipswich Town scarf facing down a flight of colleagues bedecked in Canary trimmings 

Despite the football rivalry, Melanie enjoys working in both counties.

“There is a sense of belonging which I find comforting when working in Suffolk and Norfolk. You get that sense of being part of an East Anglian identity which was missing when I worked in south Essex. It was not something I was aware of until I worked so close to London, and I definitely missed it. 

“And now being back here again, I feel that I have come home and I do feel really privileged to be here. I thought I knew Suffolk. As I have said I grew up here, have been an Ipswich Town supporter all my life, so I feel part of the fabric of the county, but there is so much I have discovered about this wonderful place that I have discovered just in the three months I have been here at Suffolk Community Foundation.” 

So, what, for her, are the joys of living in the region? “We have a family dog who loves being taken for walks, and I love the coast, so every chance I get we head to different spots. I prefer to go off-season when it’s quieter but as they are becoming more well known, it’s becoming harder to find those quiet times but it’s a good problem to have!

“When it is a bit crazy in summer, one of my favourite walks is around Levington and the Nacton Shore, which remains off the tourist path."

She adds that football continues to play an important role in the well-being of the county. “If Ipswich Town is doing well then everyone is a bit brighter. It does have an effect on people’s well-being. It boosts business because everyone feels more positive, more optimistic.” 

As for Melanie’s own New Year’s resolution? She wants to see if Suffolk Community Foundation can make its money go further, reach more people, and have a bigger impact on those who need help right across the county. 

“We don’t provide services ourselves but can help identify need and direct resources and help fund support, I see my job as helping to keep Suffolk communities thriving and providing support for those in need.” 

If you want to contribute to Suffolk Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter Appeal you can find more details at