Business support vital to keeping Gloucestershire charities thriving

A spur of the moment act of generosity by a Gloucestershire business has potentially saved lives this Christmas, and highlighted the crucial role firms play in making the work of incredible charities possible all year round.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Charity becomes a point of focus for many at Christmas, but the generous support of Gloucestershire businesses is vital all year round.

When SoGlos heard about a spur of the moment charitable gesture from a Gloucestershire firm, which could help save lives, we decided to look into just how valuable businesses support is in keeping county charities going.

The act of generosity at a charity auction, saw donors step in when bidding for a hospitality package at Cheltenham Town FC went above the reach of enthusiastic staff from the town’s branch of the Samaritans.

Staff from Optimising IT added the extra cash to give the Cheltenham charity, which supports those at their lowest ebb, a prize that would help it reach more people.

Clive Ridgwell, treasurer of the Samaritans Cheltenham and District, said access to hospitality at Cheltenham Town was more important than it might sound: ‘Men especially have the highest rate of suicide in the UK. To be able to be in an environment where we can reach more of those people, and in a position where we can make important contacts is so important.’

The charity needs to raise £26,000 ‘just to keep the lights on', with a team of 200 volunteers making the service possible.

Helen Bridger, branch director of the Back Albert Place-based charity, said: ‘It was a small thing for them to do, but so generous and the benefits for us, potentially immense. We get thousands of calls a year from individuals who need someone to talk to and we need to be there for them.

‘Unfortunately, people often only think of us when there is a death, but our object is to be there before it comes to that.

‘Covid-19 was very hard on lots of people. With the cost of living crisis too we do not expect the phone lines to go any quieter, so the help and support of businesses – and what Optimising IT did for us – is more significant than most people will ever realise.’

Tracey Clark, chief executive officer of Young Gloucestershire, a countywide charity that supports young people facing challenges in their lives, said: ‘The Gloucestershire business community has truly stood up for Young Gloucestershire and the young people we support - especially since the pandemic.

‘As more and more reports were published, highlighting the negative impact the pandemic has had on young people’s mental-health and futures, we saw a surge in business support, which has been vital.’

Cordell Ray OBE, chief executive officer of Caring for Communities and People (CCP), which supports families across Cheltenham, said: ‘CCP has long recognised the significant contribution local businesses make to our work by donating time, skills, resources and money that greatly enhances the social impact we make through serving our cause.

‘A prime example is our annual cost of living appeal, Hamper Scamper, which delivers food hampers and children’s gifts to more than 2,000 families every Christmas.

‘The logistical exercise is significant and, as a charity, simply not achievable without help. That help arrives courtesy of the business community, which in the last campaign provided 316 employee volunteers donating 1,406 hours of their time to sort and pack 41,000 items of food and 2005 children’s gifts.’

Matt James is chief executive of WellChild, the Gloucestershire-based national UK children's charity that makes it possible for children and young people with serious and complex health needs to be cared for at home.

‘We are incredibly lucky to have fantastic partnerships with companies from this area and we value them all. For example there is our partnership with the Jockey Club where we are official charity for The Cheltenham Festival, which is of huge benefit to us both financially and in terms of brand awareness.

‘There is also the long-term support we have had from Cirencester-based St James’ Place which has supported us with volunteers on many of our Helping Hands garden projects for seriously ill children.

‘A recent example is the support we are receiving from Stitchfinity which is making a donation to WellChild for the cross-stitch advent calendars they sold this Christmas.

‘Without these local partnerships, and many more, we simply could not carry out the work we do for complex needs children and their families across the UK.’

Geoff Smith, chairman of Optimising IT, was one of those at the charity dinner sharing a table with the Samaritans.

'It was a simply thing we did. We wanted to help, that was all. We're just pleased to be able to do so,' said Smith.

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