Devon community groups receive funding boost

News Desk
Authored by News Desk
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2024 - 3:48pm

Three community groups across Devon* have received over £2,700 from The Co-operative Bank in the latest round of grants from its Customer Donation Fund.

Among the recipients was Exeter-based Sweetpea Smallholdings, a community interest company (CIC) that aims to reduce social isolation by bringing people from a variety of backgrounds together to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Made up of mostly disabled volunteers, the CIC grows produce at sites across Exeter all year round, which is delivered to those in the community who are most in need. As well as growing produce, Sweetpea provides a space where volunteers can connect with one another and gradually build up their confidence and mental wellbeing.

A 2021 report found that 61% of those with a disability were chronically lonely and with many within the disabled community feeling isolated, providing an outlet for people to connect is a key part of Sweetpea’s operations.

Mike Baker, Operations Manager at Sweetpea Smallholdings explained:

“The money we have received from The Co-operative Bank Customer Donation Fund has been crucial as it has enabled us to construct a dedicated wheelchair-friendly space where our volunteers can enjoy growing produce in specifically-designed raised beds.

“Without the funding, we wouldn’t have been able to create this area so we are very grateful and we’re excited to welcome more volunteers to our allotment so that they can enjoy this fantastic, inclusive space.”

Funding was also awarded to A Kind of Magic Animal Centre. Based in Newton Abbott, the CIC aims to support vulnerable young people in the local community with their mental well-being, through time spent interacting with animals and engagement in craft activities in the south Devon countryside.

The CIC offers a range of activities from animal care to gardening and seeks to build the self-worth and confidence of the young people it supports, as well as helping them to feel accepted, happy and to have a sense of belonging.

Funding from The Co-operative Bank Customer Donation has been invested in wood-working tools and equipment such as drills and saws, which has enabled A Kind of Magic to offer additional activities such as whittling, willow sculpture and creating homes for wildlife.

Clair Fynn, Director at A Kind of Magic said:

“The Co-operative Bank’s donation has provided a real boost as it has allowed us to expand our offering. The DIY and woodworking activities we now offer have really helped to boost the confidence and self-worth of the young people who come to us.

“This is simply because they’re being trusted to use tools such as saws, drills and whittling tools. Not only this but we’ve also seen their level of concentration and resilience improve.”

Amelia Burnett, SME Product Manager at The Co-operative Bank, said:

“Supporting our customers, particularly smaller charities and community projects, has never been more important. We are proud to have been able to provide these grants to projects across the UK that are positively impacting communities, at a time when many people are facing cost of living challenges.”

Since the fund was set up back in 2003, award-winning charity banking provider. The Co-operative Bank has donated over £1.1 million to more than 1,000 community projects, with £100,000 donated in 2023 alone to support communities through the cost of living crisis.

The Co-operative Bank is welcoming applications for the next round of funding from Community Directplus customers across Devon. Charities, community interest companies, benefit societies, co-operatives and credit unions looking to apply can fill in the form here.

For more information on The Co-operative Bank’s Community Directplus account, visit this webpage.

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