Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

One of 46 across the UK, Suffolk Community Foundation recently celebrated its 14th year, reporting record levels of income, grantmaking and endowment fund growth.

665 grants, with a combined value of £2.76m were awarded during 2018/19, supporting essential services to help over 164,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the county, including those suffering winter fuel poverty, with funds raised through its annual Surviving Winter Appeal campaign.

Retiring Chairman, James Buckle, a Trustee for nine years, explained:

“Unlike traditional grantmaking trusts and foundations, we develop lasting partnerships with individuals, families, businesses, public bodies and trusts. We worth together to ensure that areas of acute need are addressed compassionately, respectfully and sustainably. Our priority is to reach those in most need by combining robust evidence with local service delivery.

“Each year we have grown stronger, more effective and more ambitious to make Suffolk a better place to live for everyone, raising over £45 million since 2005.”

The website relaunched a year ago, now attracts 25,000 hits, “enabling people to learn more about Hidden Needs, apply for a grant or donate,” says Stephen Singleton, Chief Executive.

“Although Suffolk is a very generous county, it is our mission to raise greater awareness of how local charities and community groups meet need at grassroots level.

“Currently, almost 80 per cent of people’s donations go to the top three per cent of the largest national and international charities, instead of being focused locally. By working with our professional advisors, businesses, families and individuals wishing to contribute to, or establish, funds can tailor their generosity to specific projects with clear outcomes.”

With Social Care services under so much pressure, Stephen Singleton is especially proud of the innovative Sustainability & Transformation Partnership with North East Essex, bringing together both statutory and voluntary sectors to redesign and integrate primary, secondary physical and mental health as well as social care, with the creation of an Integrated Care System (ICS).

As an ICS Board member, the Foundation plays a leading role through its Realising Ambitions fund, with volunteer panels allocating and distributing £1.2m in the last year to address reducing loneliness and suicides, improve mental health and obesity, and reducing the impacts of poverty on health.

Other initiatives include the creation of Suffolk 100 members, and Community Champions, who directly support the Foundation and the Young Philanthropists, inspiring young people to raise money for their local communities, whilst developing key skills in research, negotiation, decision making and public speaking.”

“Building positive futures for our young people is a constant focus,” explains Stephen Singleton:

“The Youth Intervention Fund, for example, addresses issues as diverse as online safety, isolation and wellbeing, especially in rural locations, to ‘up the anti’ on resources to support young people whose lives and futures are in serious jeopardy.

“With knife crime just one of the serious issues increasingly hitting the headlines, we’ve commissioned workshops across 32 primaries, and funded research in close consultation with 75 young people to address their concerns.”

Coming together with The Diocese, University of Suffolk and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), this programme has identified the need to include young people in decisions, improve accessibility to services, and provide safe social spaces in consultation with them.

When the PCC pledged an initial £50,000, a further £100,000 was quickly raised to deliver on expectations, and address challenges including antisocial behaviour and gang culture, drugs and alcohol addition, and County Lines.

Tim Passmore, the PCC says:

“During my term in office, I have seen at first hand some shocking and heart-wrenching situations involving our young people that are completely unbelievable in 21st century Suffolk. The research was vital to implementing solutions as a team, and I was delighted with the response to create the Youth Intervention Fund.”

In another success, 2018/19 saw nearly 500 people donating all or part of their Winter Fuel Payment to raise over £125,000 to heat over 800 households, as well as help with insulation improvements and energy tariffs. “We really broke new ground, and committed every penny to those vulnerable older people in genuine need,” adds Mr. Singleton.

The annual Suffolk Action week in early autumn showcases the role volunteers play in local wellbeing, reaching over 40,000 people, highlighting opportunities to volunteer at least once a month by joining one of the many organisations changing lives across the region.

One of the most popular annual events, deferred until next year, is Suffolk Dog Day, run entirely by volunteers, bringing together tens of thousands of dog lovers at the magnificent Helmingham Hall. Since 2008, it has raised over £500,000, benefiting over 100,000 vulnerable people through 250 grants. Importantly, it is a fun day out for people of all ages, enjoying each other’s company, entertainment and food, as well as delighting in dogs’ performance.

Recognising and rewarding all this effort is the aim of the annual High Sheriff’s Awards, inviting entries across seven categories.

“We are very fortunate in Suffolk, to have so many people willing to devote their time and energy to helping others. Cooking meals, driving people to the shops or doctors’ appointments, digging a garden, organising a book club or children’s sporting event; they are a lifeline for so many people, but do all these things out of love, without expecting anything in return, so these Awards are a wonderful opportunity to say a simple ‘thank you’,” explains Mr. Singleton.

The strength of the Foundation’s relationship with the High Sheriff is evident as it welcomes George Vestey, as its new Chairman. High Sheriff of Suffolk in 2018/19, he praised his predecessor for his “kindness, support and thoughtful leadership”. A significant act to follow, for which he is well qualified.

Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council (SCC), acknowledges the considerable benefits of joint working with the Foundation and its army of volunteers and fundraisers:

“Suffolk is a wonderful place to live, but, like so many rural counties, it has its fair share of challenges to overcome.

“These challenges include some people who may be living in rural isolation, facing loneliness and potential financial distress. Too often these issues are handled by the individual, on their own in silence, leading to incidents of poor mental health.

“When I became Leader of SCC in May 2018, I made clear my belief that no one individual organisation has all the answers to these challenges. I believe that we must work together with partners across the county to find solutions and mitigations that work. Through its sympathetic approach, the Foundation identifies a whole range of Hidden Needs across all age groups, which helps all of us to work in partnership to find the right solutions without invading anyone’s privacy. They are a pleasure to work with.”

Stephen Singleton and Matthew Hicks both agree that the current Covid-19 pandemic “is an exceptional event that will have an impact on local charities and community groups. We want to offer reassurance that we all stand together to address these challenges, focusing on the vital work of supporting the most vulnerable people across the county.”