Tees Valley Community Foundation (TVCF) is providing assistance to local groups working to relieve the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
TVCF, which has been helping local charities and community groups by distributing grants for more than 30 years, is providing fast-track access to the Teesside Emergency Relief Fund (TERF).
The fund was set up by local councils in the 1970s to provide emergency grants to assist individuals living in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton on Tees and Redcar & Cleveland who are faced with an emergency or crisis.
The fund is operated as a third party grant meaning individuals cannot apply directly - applications must be submitted by a support organisation who has detailed knowledge of the need or beneficiary.
Jonelle Bain, donor services officer at TVCF, said: “Through the TERF fund we are issuing much-needed grants daily to groups who are on the ground and are working to relieve the direct impact of the pandemic.
“As with the rest of the world, this situation is evolving by the day for the people of the Tees Valley – our whole team is focussed on the situation and we’re communicating daily with groups who are discovering vulnerable people who have found themselves falling through the gaps out there,” she said.
“We are working with community groups to establish where the gaps are and where money is needed to help people, quickly.”
Among some of the charitable groups helped by the TVCF in recent days is Leo’s Neonatal, which supports families through preterm and traumatic births. A £1000 grant has been donated to directly supporting the provision of mental healthcare packs.
Co-founder, Lottie King, said: “Many of our families are either shielded right now, or are choosing to shield their children as they have spent time on a neonatal unit and have children with additional needs, or conditions such as chronic lung disease.
“Covid-19 is a respiratory based illness; we see each winter how serious RSV can be for these families - some children end up back on life support - so we understand first-hand the anxieties our parents in the community are facing right now. In short, they are terrified.” she said.
With restrictions on access to hospitals and anxiety levels on the rise, the charity is responding with well-being care packages, which include journals, mindfulness colouring books, soothing candles and bath salts. And, for siblings who can’t attend wards there are craft sets, teddies, colouring sets and worry monsters to help with concerned little minds.
“Lockdown and changes to visiting on neonatal units is incredibly traumatising - our focus is to care for their mental health and ensure they’re well supported in as many ways as possible. The packs, which TVCF has helped fund, have already started landing on the doorsteps of many of our families and we’re contacted each day by parents telling us how much the items are helping and how the offer of support from our team is crucial to their well-being during lockdown.”
Another group who’ve benefitted from £1000 is Stockton-based Little Spouts, which usually provides free meals, cooking and food education projects to vulnerable families, has been inundated with requests for help. Co-owner, Neta Kaur-Brown, said: “We are delivering 50 meals per day, three days per week and our revenue streams have been affected so the support from TVCF is very welcome.
“Because many of the foodbanks that were available before lockdown have closed due to those running them being in insolation, we are experiencing a huge increase in demand for support – particularly with people needing help with shopping.”
Applications to TVCF from grants are usually restricted to one per year – this has now been relaxed to provide this urgent support where it is needed.
“In an effort to be as responsive as possible in these unprecedented times, we have lifted the 'one application per year' restriction,” said Ms Bain. “This means those who need funds can repeatedly apply for help as needed throughout this evolving situation.”
Groups can contact TVCF through all the usual routes - calls to the main number are being diverted to the team but using the website's online form or messaging via Facebook is requested where possible.
Whilst TVCF is still processing general grant applications, it is prioritising requests from those groups who are directly responding to the impact of Covid-19 - applications for other purposes will be processed but may experience a slight delay.
Tees Valley Community Foundation’s mission is to empower local communities to address disadvantage and exclusion - it has distributed more than £35m to more than one million beneficiaries in the last 30 years.