Growing a sense of community

  • 20
  • Jan

Before 2012, Crayford Road was a typical inner-city residential road, with few residents on first-name terms. This all changed thanks to the green-fingered energy of a core group of friends who took it upon themselves to clean up the street and get to know their neighbours.

The Crayford Road Gardeners have always focused on helping local people feel like they are part of a community. Whether at the launderette, newsagent, or just out and about, the group offer friendly support to anyone who is struggling.

This hasn’t always been easy; neighbours didn’t know how to react to the first harvest of fruit and veg from the Gardeners’ planters. But after spreading the word verbally, and through home-made flyers, the road’s cherry trees, basil plants and courgettes are now a talking point (and food source) for residents young and old.

This growth, in the feelings of community, and of the plants, has been made possible by grants awarded through Islington Council’s Community Chest. Since 2009, Islington Council has worked in partnership with Cripplegate Foundation to support Islington’s voluntary organisations with flexible, impactful funding and advice.

The Community Chest funds small, community-focussed organisations with an annual turnover of less than £100,000 with grants of up to £5,000.

“It is amazing what can be achieved with such a modest amount of money,” says panel member Lucy Bingham. “Especially when combined with the energy and enthusiasm of some truly inspiring people.” The Panel’s Chair and Islington Council’s Executive Member for Community Development, Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz, says the panel is “motivated by a desire to do something about inequality.” The Community Chest provides an opportunity to celebrate “local people doing things for their community.”

Some 577 Community Chest grants of almost £1.5million have been awarded to a diverse range of small community organisations. Former Vice Chair of the Community Chest Panel, and Chair of Cripplegate Foundation Frances Carter says: “Islington Council’s Community Chest is an excellent demonstration of faith in the people of this community. We are privileged that the Council supports the wellbeing and development of our community in this way.”

For some organisations, a Community Chest grant is a valuable first step towards growth, replication, or the implementation of a new idea. Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation’s first grant was awarded through the Community Chest in 2012. The organisation now works with hundreds of women from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia living in London.

Organisations supported by the Community Chest are often providers of proactive support. The dedicated mentors of YES Outdoors provide a sense of adventure, learning and motivation for young people whose lives have been affected by crime, gang violence, and family issues. Their sensitive approach to working with young people takes place both in the city and the great outdoors.

To make applying straightforward, Cripplegate Foundation provides additional support to applicants to and recipients of Community Chest funding.

“Being able to call upon the expertise and friendly guidance of Cripplegate Foundation’s Programme Team is a great source of confidence for many applicants”, says Councillor Comer-Schwartz. It is important that people know that they can have their queries understood and answered in person, by phone or through email. As a resource for the most densely populated borough in England, the Community Chest needs this flexibility to effectively reach as many people as possible.

Visit the Cripplegate website to learn more about the Foundation, that works in Islington and part of the City of London to bring about change that will transform the lives of disadvantaged residents.

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