Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector and Labour/Co-op MP for Basildon, presented the CommunityMark to Maxine Sharman, Midcounties Senior Community Co-ordinator, at a special Business in the Community reception, at Westminster.
The society is one of just nine organisations to attain the CommunityMark in 2009. Each are exemplars of best practice for the way they have invested in communities through corporate giving and fundraising and employee volunteering time; in-kind support and commercial initiatives.
Midcounties was recognised in particular for its work on social issues concerning the environment, education, social inclusion and health.
Said Ms Sharman: “We are delighted and immensely proud to achieve the CommunityMark, which recognises the commitment we have throughout our business to support our local communities.
“We not only return a percentage of our profits to the communities we serve, we invest our time and skills too by encouraging our 7,800 colleagues to get involved in community fundraising and volunteering events and to engage with our campaigns.”
Last year, Midcounties provided £131,000 in community grants and supported more than 260 individual organisations. Employees accessed a further £7,000 for projects they were personally involved with and branch managers allocated £20,000 for goods for community groups and raffle prizes.
Society staff gave practical help to local projects and clocked up 22,365 volunteer hours during work time.
Midcounties’ wide-ranging community work includes an eco-drive in primary schools, with the help of its Peter Penguin character, to encourage children to be ‘green’ and to remember the three Rs — reduce, re-use and recycle. Its support for education has been evident too in backing the Sutherland Business and Enterprise College in Trench, Telford, one of the first in the country to adopt a co-operative model of working.
It has supported projects to discourage young people from getting caught up in a knife culture and colleagues have assisted at workshops to improve the employment skills and job prospects of young people in need of additional help.
To achieve the CommunityMark, companies are assessed according to five principles of community investment through a rigorous, independent process. A total of 29 companies have now achieved the standard.