Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund awards £1million – and helps 100,000 people

PUBLISHED: 05:28 02 June 2020

Battisford Parish Council has helped provide food to those in need during the crisis  Picture: Battisford Parish Council

Battisford Parish Council has helped provide food to those in need during the crisis Picture: Battisford Parish Council


The Suffolk Coronavirus Community fund has awarded £1million in grants to local charities and organisations in a bid to help re-build the charitable sector.

Annie Dickinson from Living Paintings  Picture: Annie DickinsonAnnie Dickinson from Living Paintings Picture: Annie Dickinson

The fund, set up by the Suffolk Community Foundation, has so far helped almost 100,000 people and “lesser sung heroes” through its 200 grants as it looks to support those in need during the lockdown.

The foundation said the generosity of donors shows why the county is deserving of its “caring county” title, but stressed efforts need to continue to ensure that local community projects and charities do not succumb to the economic pressure caused by the pandemic.

Stephen Singleton, chief executive of the foundation, said: “Suffolk has every reason to be proud of what has been achieved so far. This landmark moment of £1m reaching local causes from The Coronavirus Community Fund has only been possible because hundreds of local people have given what they can afford.

“No money in, no money out, it’s as simple as that and it’s the people of Suffolk that have given so generously to save lives. 
“We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all their support thus far, but of course there are even more difficult times ahead.”

The Coddenham Response Group has rallied for people in the local community  Picture: Coddenham Response GroupThe Coddenham Response Group has rallied for people in the local community Picture: Coddenham Response Group

Research published by Community Action Suffolk earlier this month showed 47% of charities in the county face collapse without a significant increase in funding.

Most have been hardest hit by lockdown measures forcing the cancellation of their own and volunteer-organised fundraising events.

Mr Singleton added: “The voluntary sector in Suffolk continues to face the perfect storm. 
“Fundraising initiatives are next to impossible to deliver as lockdown restrictions continue, cutting off vital income at a time when we need is soaring and calls for their services are going through the roof.

“Our message now has to be thank you for all the support so far, but we must all continue to do all we can to support them.

Nicky Cleaver, from Battisford Parish Council  Picture: Nicky CleaverNicky Cleaver, from Battisford Parish Council Picture: Nicky Cleaver

“By making a donation to the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund you will allows us to continue to get support to projects that are delivering services where they are most needed.”

Donations to the fund can be made online, via telephone and by text donation. Visiting this website for more details.

Where just some of the money has gone:

Chief executive of Suffolk Community Foundation Stephen Singleton Picture: SLYVAINE POITAU PHOTOGRAPHY/ SUFFOLK COMMUNITY FOUNDATIONChief executive of Suffolk Community Foundation Stephen Singleton Picture: SLYVAINE POITAU PHOTOGRAPHY/ SUFFOLK COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Battisford Parish Council – Funding has helped provide a food bank and delivery service for its elderly and vulnerable residents, who are self-isolating. As well as the elderly, the Parish Council has been contacted by families who have seen their income disappear asking for help to feed their children. Battisford is a very small rural village, with no public transport links

Nicky Cleaver, from the parish council, said: “The grant has allowed us to provide a lifeline in a very real and material way for those most vulnerable in society during these troubling times.”

Living Paintings Trust – The charity designs, creates and publishes tactile and audio books for blind and partially sighted people.

During the pandemic, Living Paintings aims to relieve the social and educational isolation of blind and partially sighted people of all ages by running a free of charge postal library service of ‘Touch to See’ books.

The funding has also helped the charity introduce its new ‘Relax & Chat’ service for their adult library members. Any adult library member feeling a lonely during this time can take advantage of this new service

Annie Dickinson, fundraising assistant, said: “The amount of books going out to our beneficiaries is quite overwhelming to see. This grant makes all the difference.”

Coddenham Response Group – This is a new group set up, with support from and operating under the Parish Council in Coddenham, in order to respond to quickly to the need of the above average elderly population, many of whom are living on their own.

Neil Scoresby, chair, said: “There has never been a more important time for us to look after our neighbours and our local community. In less than a week we launched a dedicated website, email and phone number providing help and support, issued a newsletter through every door and launched a ‘telephone tree’ support service for anyone struggling with loneliness or wellbeing issues. We are very grateful to Suffolk Community Foundation for this funding to help us deliver these vital services during this pandemic.”

Honington and Sapiston Village Hall – A local team of volunteers provide a community hub for identifying and supporting local residents. It started as a set up for a twice monthly offering of meals for the vulnerable in the communities of these rural areas of the county.

Since the outbreak, the band of volunteers increased to 30 where in the first few weeks of lockdown, 300 take-away lunches to those in need – these were either collected or delivered. These community made meals are a life-line for residents living alone, many of whom are elderly and have limited mobility. The team also recognised that more needed to be done, from prescription collection, essential food shopping, dog walking and pet care as well as ensuring that local footpaths were useable for those wanting to take exercise.

Linda Howe, secretary and trustee, said: “This grant has been invaluable to us in being able to provide essential support within the community and in particular to provide meals far more regularly than usual. Not only does the grant enable us to provide high quality food nicely presented but also to offer a delivery service, (recruiting in mainly younger people, eg students who are looking for work at this time).”

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Through his business, he aims to build a conservation-based economy connecting visitors with Suffolk’s stunning countryside both digitally and physically through safaris and lectures. “I spend most of my time on safari in farmland habitat on the Shotley and Deben peninsulas,” he says. “This guiding season for Spirit of Suffolk started early March and I had several safari bookings as well as two photography workshops planned throughout March and April.” Philip was just one safari into the season – with one urban fox tour under his belt – with the business really taking off when lockdown measures were introduced on March 23, which meant he had to ditch his planned events. Lockdown hit him hard on a personal level too, he admits. “I always thought I would be able to head out to the countryside still, alone, and with caution. But as lockdown measures were introduced I realised this was not to be the case. “On a personal level this was deeply troubling as time spent in nature forms who I am as a person in both actions and spirit. “From a business perspective initially it felt shattering as I could not operate any of the core elements of the business, and to have started the season so spectacularly well with an amazing first safari and superb urban fox tour I really felt bad for the guests that had trips booked and were now not able to take them. “As a wildlife photographer but living in central Ipswich I also felt limited in what I could do photography-wise.” But he picked himself up and started working on his website and social media strategies. It was a “joy” to provide a vital connection with nature to people stuck at home, he said. “Early on in the lockdown I started a project called ‘On the Doorstep’ in which I would spend a little time each day stood on my doorstep and photograph the comings and goings of people.” The project now forms part of a cultural snapshot of Ipswich in 2020 collated by Suffolk Archives. He also used the downtime to create short books. The two titles – Suffolk Wildlife - A Photo Journey, and Spirit Bear - A True Story of Isolation and Survival – have been “very popular”, selling both in the UK and abroad. They even received an accolade from veteran environmentalist and wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who described them as “delightful”. He has two more planned – the first of which is Bears and Hares, which is set to be followed by a collection of photo stories from the doorstep project. As lockdown eased in early August he was able to resume his safaris, initially on a two-week trial basis. The pilot proved very successful and as a result he was able to begin booking events again. “Although we are nearing the quieter season I continue to take people out who are keen on enjoying the beauty of Suffolk and its wonderful wildlife and I am personally excited for the beauty and joys of autumn,” he says. “People often purchase the safaris as a gift for someone else and this continues to be popular, as a birthday present or Christmas present that can be redeemed at any point in the future.” From October, he is also planning to resume his one-day photography workshops. “I have always loved showing people the wonders of nature, whether that be a grizzly, a barn owl, killer whales or an urban fox. I think the lockdown period offered a different appreciation for the things around us and I am ever so excited to be with people again and to be showing them all the wonderful wildlife of my favourite spots in Suffolk.” He has had to adapt the tours to ensure safety, but the changes are subtle and don’t detract from the main goal - which is seeing nature, he says. “I now encourage the guest to bring along their own drink and snacks and to also bring their own pair of binoculars. We do wear face coverings while in the vehicle and with the windows open to ensure ventilation. Such changes have been well received by the safari guests and we continue to have some great wildlife viewing.” He’ll be “forever grateful” to his customers and guests for their support and understanding during the pandemic. “Recovery all depends on the current status of local restrictions and the virus itself. I am hoping that a vaccine can be in place as soon as possible. As a fledgling business I have felt a hit, although the sales of short books has helped.” But he remains “positive and optimistic”, he says. “The only way is up,” he says. His hope is that Spirit of Suffolk will become a well-known brand. “I have long term goals of buying woodland for conservation and wildlife viewing and also establishing a small lodge where I can accommodate guests for taking multi-day safaris and tours. “For now I am happy to take things slowly and cautiously, testing the waters in certain areas as I continue to grow the brand and products that I provide. “It is exciting. I am so deeply passionate about what I do that I know it will continue to be a success.” Suffolk’s wildlife in spotlight as safaris get back on track