A few weeks ago I wrote in this column about a special fund being set up by South East Water (SEW) for charities in Maidstone & The Weald. It was created to thank the community for its patience when a rapid ‘freeze-thaw’ weather event in December caused widespread interruption to tap water supplies in the run up to Christmas.
Local organisations across the constituency were invited to apply for a grant using an online application on SEW’s website, setting out how the money would be used to make a difference in their work for local people. The response was amazing - with five times the number of applications than there were grants available (sadly).
They covered a huge range of sectors; from scout groups to homelessness, from sports groups to youth services and from family support to health and care-work charities. The team from SEW and I were then faced with the daunting task of deciding who would receive an award.
It was a tough call, but ultimately, we arrived at a list of 20 organisations representing a cross section of applicants, based in locations across my constituency, all of whom had put forward a really compelling case in their online submissions. We invited representatives from each of them to come along and be recognised for their work in the community whilst picking up a cheque for £1,500 each.
We gathered in the excellent Maidstone Community Support Centre in Marsham Street, who themselves qualified for one of the grants. The Centre is home to many charitable groups, occupying 75 offices over three floors, and is the beating heart of community and voluntary work in the County Town - go here for more information.
In his welcome speech SEW’s head of communications, Robert Crumbie, spoke with humility about the debacle of no running water at such a crucial period last year, explaining the extreme weather behind the cause but also that they take their responsibility seriously. In response I publicly welcomed SEW’s approach and the sincere gesture they are making through the £30,000 community fund.
But the day belonged to the organisations who were present, and it was a pleasure to invite each of them to introduce themselves and explain the work that they do, day in and day out, changing and improving people’s lives for the better. We then joined together for a photocall before they received their cheques and spent some valuable time networking over coffee and some superb cakes, provided by the café in the Community Support Centre.
SEW have promised to keep me in the loop about progress in their development plans and I will certainly be paying heed and reporting back to my constituents. Meanwhile I hope this community fund will have a lasting impact for the benefit our local people and prove to be the silver lining in what was quite a dark cloud last Christmas.