The financial support provided by North East employer The Banks Group to community projects tackling the local impacts of the pandemic has gone past the £70,000 mark.
In April last year, the family-owned firm temporarily relaxed the eligibility criteria for grants from the community funds linked to its various renewable energy and mining projects in order to ensure money could be made quickly available to community groups where it was needed most.
Since then, funding has been provided to more than 40 organisations across northern England and Scotland in support of a wide range of pandemic-related projects covering issues including social isolation, food supply and distribution, engagement with education and PPE provision.
Each fund is usually restricted to supporting capital expenditure projects in the respective surrounding areas, but in light of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, the company is continuing to keep them open to applications from local groups that are still working to address community needs.
The family-owned firm is working with local community representatives and the County Durham Community Foundation, which independently administers each fund, to identify the most appropriate projects to support in each area.
As part of its Coronavirus Support Network, Sadberge Parish Council in Darlington used a £1,000 grant from the fund linked to Banks’ nearby Moor House wind farm to purchase two tablet computers which were used to enable elderly local residents to have video chats with their friends and family.
Alastair Mackenzie, a member of the Network’s steering committee, says: “When we heard that grants were available from the Moor House fund, we came up with an idea that we thought would make a big difference to the well-being of local people who couldn’t get out and about during the first lockdown and who were missing the vibrant social side of life in our village.
“Being able to see someone as well as hear them makes it easier for older people to communicate with them and it was great to be able to offer this service to our older residents.”
In its most recent financial year, The Banks Group donated around £450,000 in total to community improvement schemes and good causes.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “The responses of the groups we’ve been able to support over the last year in addressing specific needs within their communities has been truly inspirational and have enabled our benefits funds to live up to their purpose of delivering direct, long-term benefits to local communities.
“With the pandemic still causing many major issues, we’re continuing to work with community leaders across each local area to see where funding might have the greatest impact and are very much open to new ideas for how and where our grants might have the most local impact.”