To celebrate 15 years of inspiring philanthropy here at Somerset Community Foundation, we're going to look at 15 people, groups and organisations with whom we have had long standing relationships and changed Somerset for the better over a sustained number of years.
5. Cornwall Glass
'Tis the season to celebrate, it seems. While we're celebrating our 15th year here at SCF, Cornwall Glass are celebrating their 40th anniversary and together we're celebrating five years of corporate philanthropy! It was exactly five years ago that Cornwall Glass made a pledge to support Somerset Community Foundation, having already developed a relationship with our colleagues at Cornwall Community Foundation. The South West firm has local branches in Bristol, Highbridge and Yeovil, and we have enjoyed getting to know their local staff over the years.
In a recent discussion with Cornwall Glass Director, Paul Garrard, he said:
“Since opening our Somerset branches in Highbridge and Yeovil, Cornwall Glass has been privileged to support the work of Somerset Community Foundation. As a company we have donated in excess of £50,000 to organisations and community groups throughout the South West. Supporting grants awarded through the Somerset Youth Fund we aim to provide support for young people in Somerset.
This year, as part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations, we are embracing our core philanthropic values, hoping to become even more involved in supporting those around us in need.
Our positive relationships with the Cornwall, Devon and Somerset Community Foundations have continued over many years, reaching out to local communities to try and make a meaningful difference."
Here at SCF we're grateful for the long-standing support of Cornwall Glass for the Somerset Youth Fund, which has most recently funded mentoring for vulnerable young people, horse riding lessons for children with learning difficulties and a local toy library. We look forward to working with this fantastic local company for many more years to come.
4. Sing for Somerset
For our fourth story in this series we thought we'd look at Sing for Somerset. Our annual carol service, which is held in Wells Cathedral, has been running for over ten years now and is one of the few events that we put on across the year. The retiring collection from this fabulously festive carol service benefits the work that Somerset Community Foundation delivers here in our county.
Following Sing for Somerset 2017, we caught up with Laurence Blyth, Musical Director and conductor of the service since 2015.
What makes Sing for Somerset so special for you, Laurence?
Sing for Somerset is, for me, the start of Christmas. It’s so rare to have a carol service (as opposed to a concert) that is led by an orchestra, a choir and an organ - that certainly makes the music so rewarding to conduct. Bringing it all together in the ancient Wells Cathedral, listening to the Christmas story, and hearing of the vital work done by Somerset’s unsung heroes makes it a really lovely occasion.
How long have you been a conductor?
My first experience of conducting came whilst I was still at Norwich School, but I didn’t have the opportunity to work with a group on a regular basis until I arrived in Exeter as an undergraduate. I directed the University Singers for two years, and took up my first professional appointment in 2008. I now have a portfolio of work around the South West, including Somerset Voices.
How long have you been involved in SCF's Sing for Somerset carol service?
I conducted my first Sing for Somerset service in 2015.
Somerset Community Foundation has been involved in Sing for Somerset for over 10 years. Do the volunteers in the Mid-Somerset Orchestra and Somerset Voices come back year on year?
The make-up of the choir does change from year to year, but there is a core of stalwarts who have been involved for some time. One of our tenors was saying recently, during rehearsal, that 2017 was his ninth appearance!
How much preparation goes into making sure this carol service sounds so wonderfully festive?
A lot! It’s become a bit of a tradition to start the planning for the next Sing for Somerset the day after the service has taken place. I usually grab a coffee and read through the order of service from the night before, thinking about things that went well or pieces that might be worth doing again the following year. Sometimes a carol needs resting for a year or so, or the links between the readings and music might need a tweak.
All the singers and players are naturally very busy around Christmas time, so it’s also the time to get the date in everyone’s diaries, and then plan chorus rehearsals around other singing commitments. A lot of the members of Somerset Voices also sing with Wellington Choral Society or Taunton Choral Society, so we also try to find the best times to rehearse that won’t get in the way of other plans.
By the autumn we’ve ordered choir and orchestra music for each carol, booked rehearsal venues and fixed up accompanists. Then it’s just the small matter of teaching the music (usually the choir has four rehearsals before the service), and putting it together during rehearsal in Wells Cathedral during the day of the Sing for Somerset service.
How do you choose which carols to feature in the service?
I like to start by thinking about the readings, and how a carol might reflect the words that will be read before or after the music. I then start searching through all sorts of carol books and other pieces that I pick up, and thinking about what will work well at that point of the service, and whether it’s suited to the choir and orchestra that we’ll have on the day.
If people want to get involved next year, how should they get in touch?
Interested singers can get in touch via my website www.laurenceblyth.com or on Twitter @LaurenceBlyth
3. ESCAPE Support Group
ESCAPE Support Group aim to extend opportunities and support to families of children who have additional needs within Somerset. They have been organising relaxed and motivating days out for local families since their inception 17 years ago, and Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) have been supporting ESCAPE for a decade now.
Some families find that having a child with a disability can be isolating and stressful. Not only are families coping with the day-to-day (sometimes 24/7) care of their children, they are often worrying about financial pressures. According to Contact a Family, it costs up to three times as much to raise a disabled child as it does to raise a child without disabilities. ESCAPE aim to fund at least 50% of their activities through fundraising and applying for grants, subsidising the cost of their activities so that they are more accessible to families in all financial circumstances.
By joining ESCAPE, members are surrounded by other families who know what it is like to have a child with specific needs, and can feel relaxed in company where they don’t feel they have to justify themselves or their children. They can just be themselves and have fun, which promotes emotional wellbeing for all.
SCF supported ESCAPE with an initial grant from the Local Network Fund ten years ago. Our funding has helped sustain the groups running costs, activities and, most recently, a Christmas lunch.
Over the years ESCAPE has grown its membership base to over 150 local families who take part in their regular activities that include swimming sessions, coffee mornings, lunches and a Hub Club. The group also organises one-off events such as weekends away and trips to the theatre.
You can read more about ESCAPE Support Group and their amazing work in Somerset here on their website.
2.Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments
In 2002, just after Somerset Community Foundation had been launched, we were on the cusp of securing the contract to deliver the Government’s Local Network Fund. Our only problem was that we had no track record in delivering grants!
This was when Tauntfield stepped in, making their first donation to SCF. From that donation we were able to make our first grants, including one to the newly formed Escape Support Group, a charity that works with families with disabled children in Taunton.
Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments are a brilliant example of a successful local business, owned and run by local people with a genuine passion for Somerset. They have continued to support us over the past fifteen years, gradually building a significant endowment fund worth over £120,000.
An endowment fund appealed to them because it demonstrates a simple way of making a longterm commitment to communities in Somerset.
Many local charities have now benefitted from grants funded through the Tauntfield and Summerfield Developments Fund, including the Trident Youth and Community Centre, Outdoor Challenge, Ten Communities Youth, On Your Bike, North Taunton Partnership and the Conquest Centre.
Elizabeth Williams, who is to this day a Director of Tauntfield and was one of our founding trustees, has told us: "I am delighted that, through Somerset Community Foundation, we have been able to help some of the people of Somerset and know that our contribution is being managed and awarded to those in genuine need."
Our connection with the firm continues to this day. Richard Lloyd, Executive Chairman of Summerfield Developments, is currently a trustee of SCF, and Tauntfield has agreed to sponsor our Sing for Somerset Christmas carol service this year. More importantly, though, their fund will continue to make a lasting difference in local communities for generations to come.
1. Back on Track
Back on Track is a local, volunteer-led charity that has transformed the lives of young people ever since they started, with a ‘Local Network Fund’ grant from us, just over ten years ago.
Back on Track works with local schools and agencies to help young people with complex needs and sometimes chaotic lives to develop skills through contact with horses, hosted by local commercial stables - a really great example of what can be achieved when you make the most of the assets Somerset has to offer. You can read more about Back on Track's work in a case study, here.
One of the things that has impressed us most about Back on Track, and enabled us to continue supporting them, has been the data they have collected through their partner schools that participate in their eight week programmes. This data has provided us with good evidence of the impact they are making, in a very simple format. Each young person is ranked on a number of measures, both at the start of a programme and again at the end, on a simple scale of 1-10.
The first grant we awarded to them – which was also the first grant they had ever received – was just over ten years ago, when Back on Track was a pilot project launched by the British Horse Society. It has since grown to become an independent charity, led by Sally Whittaker and her small team of dedicated volunteers, supported with just £25,000 in grants from Somerset Community Foundation.
Sally said: “ We could not have achieved all that we have done for the children of Somerset, without the help, generosity and advice, which was freely given by the trustees and staff at Somerset Community Foundation. I'd like to thank them very much.”
That funding from Somerset Community Foundation will have supported around fourteen Back on Track sessions and benefited over 100 young people from Somerset.
Recently, Florence Rice, a sixth form student at Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar spent some time with us here at Somerset Community Foundation, on a work experience placement. For one of her tasks, we asked her to analyse some raw data from a sample of the monitoring forms, to give us, and Back on Track, a clearer picture of the change they are achieving. The resulting graphs illustrate the significant progress made by the young people who took part.
What we found is that overall the programme increases young people’s self-esteem, their ability to work with others and even the simple pleasure that comes from having fun with others.