Staff and customers at the Heart of England Co-operative have given a helping hand to a number of community ventures, including a veterans’ support centre and Guide Dogs.
The Veterans Contact Point in Nuneaton, which gives practical and emotional support to veterans and their families, is one of 15 charities in the society’s trading area to share a £40,000 windfall from the 5p carrier bag levy.
The registered military charity provides a vital resource for people once they have left the UK Armed Forces, including help back into employment and financial assistance.
Staffed by volunteers – all ex-Armed Forces themselves – it works in partnership with a number of professional bodies including the police and criminal justice agencies, the NHS and mental health service providers such as drug and alcohol services. It also works closely with SSAFA Warwickshire & Coventry – a major grant-giving military charity.
Established in 2009, it is the brainchild of Len Hardy, who served 24 years in the army from the age of 15, before making the transition into civilian life and a career in criminal justice, where he found himself dealing with veterans who were struggling to adjust to civilian life.
He said the charity receives some 400 to 600 enquiries a year from veterans, mainly men and mainly aged 20 to 45, adding: “Many have mental health issues. They can be unemployed or have nowhere to live. Once they come out of the military, for some, their lives cascade into turmoil. They are unsettled, struggle to re-adjust to civilian life, probably don’t trust authority and feel let down.”
The £4,000 awarded by Heart of England will be used towards the VCP’s annual running costs which stand at £12,000.
Ali Kurji, chief executive of Heart of England, said: “We would like to thank every one of our customers who took the time and effort to vote for their favourite charity. Their votes will help make a huge difference to many lives.”
With the second highest number of votes, the North Warwickshire 1st Responders has been awarded £2,500 from the scheme, while Nuneaton MIND has been awarded £1,500 after receiving the third highest votes.
Meanwhile staff and customers at the society have also helped raise a fantastic £50,000 for Guide Dogs, following a two-year corporate partnership between the retailer and the charity.
This has seen activities, including car washes and football tournamnts, at Heart of England’s network of 33 Food stores and 13 Funeral homes across Coventry, Warwickshire, south Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, organised an array of activities.
Every penny raised will go to general costs for the Guide Dogs’ Central Midlands Team which covers Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
Specifically it will be used towards the rearing and training of puppies – which costs £5,000 in the puppy’s first year, and around £50,000 for the lifetime of a dog.
Liz Gilbert, community fundraiser with the charity, said: “We would like to thank everyone at the Heart of England Co-operative Society, as well as their members and customers, for their amazing, life-changing support over the past two years.
“With every hour that passes another person in the UK loses their sight, and we are totally reliant upon businesses such as the Heart of England Co-operative Society, as well as individual donations.”
Mr Ali Kurji said: “Guide Dogs provides a crucial service for the growing number of people with little or no sight.
“We have built an excellent relationship with the charity over the past two years and are delighted to donate this fantastic sum of money which has been raised with the help of our generous members, customers and staff.”