Lurgan Town Football Club has scored a major success - with a £148,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Club representatives have expressed their delight at the cash boost which they said will enable them to continue their cross-community work with more than 1,000 people per week.
According to the Foundation: “Lurgan Town Football Club provides football for hundreds of boys and girls in Lurgan - in a deprived area situated between Protestant and Catholic communities.
“They are the only truly neutral sports club in the area and are passionate about sport improving integration in the community. The Club have been awarded £148,000 from the Weston Anniversary Fund after the Foundation’s Trustees were impressed by the impact of their work.”
Philip McKinley, Club Secretary and Head Coach, says it’s been a tough time as they’ve tried to raise the amount they needed for a new pitch.
“I honestly can’t put it into words what this funding means to us - I was over the moon when I got the call and just couldn’t stop smiling. We are delighted that the Garfield Weston Foundation recognise the importance of this Club in the local area – what we offer is much more than football and we have many volunteers who started out as young players themselves.
“This funding will mean the club can continue to provide for 1,000 plus people per week to keep active and socialise with teammates and opponents alike. A massive thank you to the Garfield Weston Foundation for their support.”
Brian White, who has two children who play football at the club, says: “Lurgan remains a deeply divided town - you could almost draw a line right down the middle and it would be a good representation of the divided communities that live there. Children traditionally attend their own schools and sports clubs based on the religion they belong to. Lurgan Town Football Club is an exception to that rule. This is place where children can go, feel safe and be part of a wider community - a big Lurgan Town family where lifetime friendships are cultivated.”
The Garfield Weston Foundation more than doubled its £5m anniversary fund to over £11m to support over 150 charities after overwhelming demand.
The Weston Anniversary Fund was launched earlier this year to provide funding to charities to improve their existing facilities or provide new ones as part of the Foundation’s 60th year. The Trustees took the decision to more than double the fund after receiving over 2,300 applications, with over 60% from charities that have never applied to them before.
The Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, says: “What really impressed our Trustees is the amount of volunteering and community involvement that’s going on across the UK. We heard about so many amazing projects involving local people who are helping their communities thrive - regardless of cuts, Brexit debates and other challenges.
“The response from charities to this new fund clearly demonstrates the voluntary sector is proactive and energetic; far from the complacency it is sometimes accused of.
“Yet we can also see the level of need that exists in our local communities and how much the services charities provide are so desperately needed. The impact of these grants will be significant, with benefits for many people lasting years.”
From community centres providing services for isolated older people to organisations tackling youth and gang crime, the funding from the Weston Anniversary Fund will help charities from across the UK provide more and better services in their communities.
A recent survey by the Foundation found that two-thirds (66%) of small charities expect their income to stay the same or decline this year, yet over half (55%) expect to be delivering more services. Getting help with refurbishments or a new building has been highlighted by charities as important as it helps them earn new income.