CASH aid totalling more than £ 500,000 has been awarded to groups and individuals across the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands in the past year by United Co-operatives' Charitable Foundation.
The total ? £ 565,428 ? is more than twice the amount awarded last year and brings the total amount awarded under the Foundation's Community Support Programme, Opportunity Support Programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme to more than £ 1 million since the Foundation was set up in 2000.
The figures are revealed in the Annual Report of the Charitable Foundation, which has just been released.
In his introduction to the Report, Lord Morris of Manchester, patron of the Co-operative Charitable Foundation, said: "We have been able to significantly increase the number of groups and individuals helped by the Foundation to meet wide-ranging social need unheeded by others.
"There is still much unmet need in local communities within the society's area and much more for us to do."
Lord Morris added: "Thanks to United Co-operatives' continuing profitability, the board recommended a further contribution of £ 1.5 million to the Foundation. This lifted to £ 5.4 million the total amount donated by the society to the charity since its launch in 2000."
Bill Hoult, chair of the Foundation Trustees and President of United Co-operatives, added: "United Co-operatives has more than 1,000 retail outlets and employs 15,500 staff who, between them, serve more than 3 million customers each week. We touch the lives of hundreds of communities every day.
"Additionally, through the work of the Co-operative Charitable Foundation, we support groups and individuals who are playing their part in making our regions better places to live."
The awards made by the Foundation during the year range from £ 50 for active members of staff who are taking advantage of lifelong learning opportunities to an award of more than £ 28,000 to a hospice in Greater Manchester to buy a specially adapted minibus to transport patients to and from the hospice.
Among the other major awards were £ 22,000 to Christie Hospital in Manchester to help fund a visual field machine, £ 20,000 to the Genesis Appeal in Macclesfield to buy a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) thermocycler to analyse DNA as part of a cancer prevention programme and £ 26,000 to the Plunkett Foundation to support the Rural Revival project in the north of England.