During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Anglian Water announced plans to establish a new £1 million community support fund to provide a cash boost for local communities to meet emerging needs arising from the pandemic.
Over a year later, across Lincolnshire nearly £125,000 has been donated to different causes, benefitting an estimated 15,000 local residents.
Working in collaboration with 15 Community Foundations the money helped local charitable organisations deal with issues in the community resulting from the threat of coronavirus. Organisations like food banks, outreach programmes and those helping the most vulnerable have benefitted from support from the Positive Difference Fund by offering extra support to those experiencing financial hardship, hunger, lack of shelter, as well as further exacerbation of health issues, loneliness and isolation.
Peter Simpson, Anglian Water’s chief executive, said: “No one would have believed at the beginning of 2020 what a different world we’d be living in just 12 months later. All our lives have been affected by the pandemic in some way. As one of the biggest businesses in the East of England, we made a commitment to support to our local communities through this difficult time.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to make even a small difference to so many people. But our work is not done as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. Alongside the Positive Difference Fund, we’ll keep working to support our customers in the best way we know how - by keeping taps running and toilets flushing, because access to water for health and hygiene has never been more important.”
In Lincolnshire money from the Positive Difference Fund helped Sage Gardener to develop a friendly community garden, mostly volunteer-run, to improve local people’s mental and physical health during lockdown, as well as encourage education about and engagement with the natural environment.
The scheme has benefited 180 people in Lincoln, including Isla Wisdom, a volunteer, who said: “If it wasn’t for Anglian Water and other companies that fund charities, I don’t know where I would be right now. The financial support means that organisations like Sage Gardener can keep going and help more and more people, especially people like me who wouldn’t feel like they had a place in the world apart from the confines of home.
“I’ve made new friends during the project and new connections to help me build up my support network. It’s helped me to achieve amazing things and make new steps on my recovery journey whilst encouraging others to share their memories too. I can’t say thank you enough. This means so much to me.”
Jane Newman, director of Sage Gardener said, “All the hard work of the volunteers and group members was put on show on Wednesday August 18, when an intergenerational open day was held. The main focus of the day was the exhibition of storyboards, works of art and a mini-museum of historic articles brought in by those contributing.
“The Lincoln Ukelele Group provided joy with period songs and attendees were challenged with a Parade Square march led by a former drill instructor who is now in his 80s! The icing on the cake came along when the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, arriving by bicycle, awarded all the volunteers with recognition of service certificates and Sage Gardener CIC with a High Sheriff’s Award for Great and Valuable Service to the Community.
“By supporting Sage Gardener, Anglian Water have helped to make all of this possible. We couldn’t reach the local community and improve the lives of our group members and volunteers without funding. Thank you!”
The fund also helped Lincs Digital to provide support with digital devices and online services. This helped enable 150 local residents to keep in touch with friends and family, use vital services such as the NHS app, as well as improving access to utility, government, local authority and shopping websites during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Frank benefited from the programme, saying: “Without the help and support of Lincs Digital I would not have been able to keep in touch with my two daughters who live a long way from where I do. They were so kind and considerate even when they needed to tell me many times what to do.”
Rich from Lincs Digital said, “Thanks to Anglian Water’s Positive Difference Fund, Lincs Digital have been able to expand the amount and style of digital support sessions to residents across Lincolnshire. We covered many topics including staying in touch, online shopping, online banking, managing utilities online, public services including the gov.uk website, social media and general internet use. We are extremely grateful to Anglian Water for their support which allowed the organisation to support the rural communities and help people overcome the fear of being online.”
Rosemary Macdonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations said: “Over the past year, communities up and down the country have experienced unknown levels of hardship. The work of local charities and community organisations has never been more important, yet they are facing huge financial pressures. The willingness of companies like Anglian Water to step in and support the communities that they work in is absolutely vital.
“Through the Positive Difference Fund thousands of local people have got the support they need. Our member community foundations have ensured that Anglian Water’s generosity has reached the organisations best placed to make the biggest difference. As we move forward, partnerships like these will have an ever more crucial role to play in supporting the people and places most impacted by the pandemic.”