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Article by Sophie Astin | 9th July 2019

THE GIFT OF GIVING

A new study of charity-giving Brits has revealed that Kent residents are among the most kind-hearted people in the UK. Here, we look at local initiatives and the work of vital volunteers – plus there’s a chance to win a stay at Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells for the individual who goes that extra mile

Despite these uncertain economic times, the British public continues to dig deep and give generously, according to the World Giving Index. The annual global “generosity” survey, carried out by West Malling-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), is based on three measures: giving money, volunteering time and helping a stranger – and it seems the UK is the sixth most generous nation in the world. The report states that one in three of us (33%) volunteered in the past month, up from 28% last year, while 68% of us gave money – up slightly from 64% last year – and 63% helped a stranger, again, up from 58%.

This sense of community spirit is well and truly alive here in the South East and we are more likely to support charitable causes than anywhere else in the UK. In fact, Kent is among the most kind-hearted counties in the UK. According to a study by Ecclesiastical’s Movement for Good awards, more than 900 county residents have pledged their support so far this year to a charity that is “close to their heart”, with healthcare topping the charitable issues they care most about, followed by support for people with disabilities and more general community causes.

Saving Grace

Crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money for a personal cause, including funds for pioneering treatments, surgeries and recovery, even if you’re not a registered charity. In last month’s INDEX we featured the story of Tunbridge Wells teenager, Grace Jackson-Matthew, 14, who is suffering from a rare and life-threatening series of multiple vascular compression syndromes, whereby multiple arteries crush each other. Joanna and Dean, Grace’s parents, set up a JustGiving page to raise £50,000 for life-saving surgery for Grace that is currently not available in the UK. At the time of going to press, £30,990 – 61% of the target – has been raised.

• To support this JustGiving Crowdfunding endeavor, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/joanna-jackson-matthew?utm_term=kzZpvGvzY

Volunteer Force

From donating to local foodbanks to staffing polling stations on election day, volunteers make up a crucial part of our society and it’s no surprise that the act of volunteering itself has enormous benefits for those people giving their time – helping to reduce stress, find new friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, increase self-confidence, improve career prospects, and promote sociability and wellness.

Centre Stage

Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells was founded on community giving, and its army of local volunteers were instrumental in converting the iconic Decimus Burton church into today’s much-loved arts centre and community hub.

A team of more than 200 volunteers currently donate over 1,000 hours a month on average, to support Trinity’s artistic programme, and community arts projects. Ushers, box office and cinema staff, gardeners and duty managers work tirelessly to welcome 90,000 people a year to over 600 events.

Volunteers also underpin Trinity’s community projects, acting as companions for Senior Cinema – monthly film screenings held at Trinity in support of older, socially isolated people, developed in partnership with Good Neighbours, a local befriending charity.

Volunteers describe Trinity as a “second home”, offering a chance to meet like-minded people, whilst giving something back to the community. “Places like Trinity are so important for the town’s community and volunteering is essential for places like this to survive.

Plus, when you retire, it’s a great and valuable way to spend your time – everybody should do it!” explains one volunteer.

• Visit trinitytheatre.net

Feeding the Needy

In 2017-2018, 6,382 people in Tunbridge Wells received an emergency referral for provisions from Nourish Community Foodbank – a 38% increase on the previous year (a referral equates to a three-day emergency supply of food and toiletries). There are myriad reasons people need the support of Nourish: benefit changes, domestic abuse, debt, low paid work or unemployment, accident or illness.

We don’t imagine the affluently-perceived Tunbridge Wells borough as having a poverty issue and yet in Tunbridge Wells alone, a shocking 16% of children are living in poverty,” explains Nourish operations manager, Dawn Stanford. Almost 60,000kg of groceries and toiletries were collected from residents from 2017-18. “My one wish would be that we get to a future where a foodbank isn’t needed anymore but for now if we all gave just £3, the cost of a takeaway coffee, that could pay for a meal for someone in crisis in 2019.”

• Visit nourishcommunityfoodbank.org.uk or text FOOD35 £3 to 70070.

Not Too Big To Give

Businesses, too, can take an important role in supporting local charities. James McComas, general manager of Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells, explains how his clients and staff have helped: “As part of last year’s Winter Coat Drive, we collected over 200 coats and gloves, hats and scarves, which were distributed to homeless shelters and associated charities across Kent and Sussex

We also have a running collection for Tonbridge-based The Bridge Trust at reception, and have collected nearly £1,000 in small change over the last two years. We took part in this year’s Soap Box Race in Dunorlan Park (below) and sponsored the launch night here at the hotel in aid of Hospice in the Weald and Taylor Made Dreams.

We also work closely with West Kent Mind, sponsoring the venue and catering for some of their Mental Health First Aid courses (six so far) in aid of developing mental health awareness across workplaces.”

• Visit hotelduvin.com/locations/tunbridge-wells/

As Anne Frank once said: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Giving back to our community does so much to help those in need, whether it’s giving your time, money, a few sausage rolls – even your blood! Putting aside our own worries, dramas and to-do lists to help others really does help us feel more connected, giving a greater sense of belonging, compassion and community spirit.

WIN! WIN! WIN!

Nominate a volunteer who has gone the extra mile and you could win them an overnight stay, with dinner and breakfast at Hotel du Vin. Simply nominate your volunteer and say why, in no more than 70 words, they deserve to win. Send your entry on a postcard to: Hotel du Vin competition, INDEX, 39 Little Mount Sion, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1YS by 31st July 2019.

T&Cs: The winner will be chosen by Hotel du Vin general manager James McComas and INDEX editor Sarah Hamilton-Walker. Their decision is final, the prize is not transferable and is subject to availability (excluding December). The prize is valid for six months, is for 18+ only. Accommodation is in a standard double bedroom, dinner to include three courses from prix-fixe menu and guest responsible for any extras.

Gift Aid

When you make a charitable donation you’ve probably spotted the little box that asks your permission for the charity to claim Gift Aid. This is a scheme designed for individuals who pay tax in the UK whereby charities take your donation – money you’ve already paid tax on – and reclaim the basic rate tax from HM Revenue & Customs on the “gross” (pre-tax) amount.

Just by ticking that little Gift Aid box you could be giving the charity an extra 20p for every £1 donated. According to HMRC, a third of eligible donations made by the public to many of the UK’s 200,000 charities in 2018 did not add Gift Aid when they could have done – equating to a loss of around £600 million annually.

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