There is another reason to celebrate this Christmas for charities up and down the UK in line for grants totaling nearly £300,000 after the annual round of donations made on behalf of Newsquest Media Group, one of the UK's leading regional news publishers.
Over the last ten years alone, Newsquest has given more than £3 million to help charitable community causes all over the country, from Scotland and Northern Ireland to London and the West Country.
The trustees who make the grants agonised for days to make difficult choices from a stack of deserving applications, but narrowed the list down to those which they thought would deliver the most worthwhile practical benefits to communities served by Newsquest’s local news brands.
Charities for the disabled, sick or homeless command their usual share. But winter climbers in the Lake District may now be just that little bit safer after a £10,000 grant through the Westmorland Gazette, enabling Kendal Mountain Search and Rescue to complete the fund-raising for their sophisticated new all-weather control vehicle.
And there was another £10,000 contribution to help people with other mountains to climb: the East Cleveland Youth Housing Trust will get the new van they need to transport youngsters to training and employment opportunities in the construction industry.
A community centre on the Isle of Wight will receive the £5,000 it needs to make sure the roof can be replaced, and there was £3,000 for St Woolos Cathedral in Wales for an imaginative scheme to turn a graveyard into a haven for wildlife and visitors.
Some clever thinking deserving of support had gone into a project elsewhere in Wales which aims at integrating refugees and asylum seekers into the community through shared enthusiasms for good food and gardening. Similarly, there was no turning down the request for foil blankets, sleeping bags and tents for rough sleepers in the North West.
Perhaps predictably, hospices featured highly on the list again this year. It’s true that many are well-funded already but the trustees consider them an essential service, which of course operates completely outside the NHS. By the same token, the trustees could not say no to York Air Ambulance.
Scotland produced some good entries after missing out in recent years, including a horse for disabled riders and a new boiler for a day centre for the elderly in Glasgow. But it’s often the little things that really count. The trustees are hoping the commercial food mixer for the Homelink day respite centre in Twickenham will make all the difference.
Chairman of the trustees, Simon Westrop, said: “It was good to see Wales and Scotland back on track after a couple of lean years. And we were glad to be able to give to some exciting projects making people’s lives better in all sorts of ways – like the Oxford Playhouse plan to wrap up theatre and take it out to isolated and disadvantaged communities in Oxfordshire in a tent donated by Newsquest.
“Year on year, we are seeing better applications with more focused attention on different ways of helping - caring for the present but also building for the future.
“If your application did not succeed this time, please don’t be discouraged, but look at the applications that have won grants and think how you can come up with even better ideas next year.”
The two biggest awards of £15,000 each went to two charities founded in the 19th century by a group of benefactors including novelist Charles Dickens. They are now known as the Journalists’ Charity and Newstraid, both helping people who have worked in the newspaper industry but have fallen on hard times. And another grant went to the Rory Peck Trust which looks after the interests and welfare of freelance journalists.
The Gannett Foundation UK, which makes the grants, retains a modest reserve to cater for urgent applications until the next round of awards in November 2018. Applications can be made through any local Newsquest Media Group editor.