Charity in need of help

PUBLISHED: 13:24 01 March 2007 | UPDATED: 13:51 04 May 2010

ELY charity, Helping Hands, could close as it struggles with a funding crisis. Project organisers are being forced to dip into reserve funds to keep the charity afloat after it was refused cash help from the Lottery fund. They had asked for £130,000 over

ELY charity, Helping Hands, could close as it struggles with a funding crisis.

Project organisers are being forced to dip into reserve funds to keep the charity afloat after it was refused cash help from the Lottery fund.

They had asked for £130,000 over three years which would have allowed them to recruit two supervisors and organise a training project. But Lottery fund organisers rejected their bid.

Now they are hoping for success with other funding bids to Ely's Hereward Housing Association and the Local Network Fund.

Avril Hayter-Smith, manager of Ely and District Volunteer Centre which runs the project, said: "The charity could be lost in six months.

"We have only £5,000 in reserve and we would dip into that to keep us going.

"But this is not good for staff retention. We need businesses to step in and help. We need secure funding."

The charity helps people with learning difficulties or mental health problems, providing them with the opportunity to volunteer on gardening projects for the elderly and disabled.

Up to 14 volunteers work for the charity at any one time and last year it helped 86 people with their gardens. More than 85 per cent of those helped were Hereward Housing Association tenants.

The charity, which was launched almost nine years ago, receives donations but needs around £15,000 to keep running.

It put aside its reserve funds to replace or repair its ageing mini bus and project organisers are worried that, if they spend the money, they may be storing up problems for the future.

"Without the bus we cannot keep operating," said Avril. "The bus is 10 years old and needs replacing and our driver supervisor is on a short-term contract until the end of March.

"People get so much from the charity. We build up the confidence of the volunteers and without it many of them would be stuck in their residential homes for the whole day."

Anyone wishing to find out more information or help can contact the charity on 01353 666556 or by email at elyvb@cb74aa.fsnet.co.uk

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