Celebrating the Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund
PUBLISHED: 15:35 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:35 27 September 2019
A recent report by the Charities Aid Foundation shows that the number of people in the UK regularly giving to charity has declined for the third year running. Equally worryingly, the report also finds that the number of people taking part in charitable activity or social action, has also fallen
As we celebrate entering the fourth year of the Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund, we are keen to share the positive effect that the Fund has had, not just on the recipients of the grants we have made but also on the staff and those involved in the decision making process within the firm. It has really helped us to connect with our local community and build long lasting relationships with the charities and organisations working within it, whilst at the same time having fun!
As part of the business community of Surrey we wanted to develop ways of supporting young people within our region to have opportunities they would not otherwise have and help them widen their horizons and aspirations. In 2016, we launched the Fund under the umbrella of the Community Foundation for Surrey and since then we have supported over 15 projects which have directly impacted over 2,224 people in Surrey.
As one of the South East's leading law firms, serving both private clients and businesses, it was a natural step for us to establish our own charitable initiative, but we wanted to do more than simply write a cheque. Our lawyers are fortunate enough to advise charities, individuals and businesses and we are therefore able to see the merits of philanthropy from all perspectives. In our view giving involves not just financial support but offering our time and talents too, so we have sought where possible to seek lasting relationships with the charities and projects we fund through volunteering and ongoing support. A recent exciting development is that we have been able to add pro bono legal advice to the 'package' we are able to offer with the recruitment of our first director of pro bono, Kerry Stares.
In November we will once again be gathering all of our grant recipients and local contacts from our other charity clients for our annual charity party where we will be joined by Chris Sherwood CEO of the RSPCA. We are looking forward to celebrating the dedication and hard work of all those who are committed to making our community a more positive environment.
We were able to support Matrix in running youth hubs across two of the most disadvantaged areas of Guildford, providing a space for young people to feel safe, try new things and 'have someone to talk to'. The comments from the young people attending these hubs speak for themselves about the positive effects these have had with one saying 'I get to chill and have time to de stress so it has improved my mentality at the end of the week'. Creating such spaces inevitably involves obtaining and considering legal advice and so we are currently working with Matrix to provide pro bono legal advice for them.
This organisation was one of our first grant recipients where we provided a grant to support the organisations work with teenagers providing apprentice style teaching of manual skills including woodwork, furniture-making and metalwork. We have since worked with them on projects within the community and their youngsters built our little Free Library', a free book exchange open to the public and located at our offices in One London Square. We have recently been able to give them their own supply of work overalls, a much needed resource for them.
Normandy therapy garden
This inspiring local initiative run by local people offers social and therapeutic horticultural courses. When awarding the grant our panel was impressed with how the charity uses gardening to generate positive change and makes such a difference to the quality of local life. In addition to the grant itself we have been able to visit the gardens to help with the gardening and make cakes for all the volunteers. One of our property lawyers has also been able to give pro bono planning advice demonstrating how broad a contribution we want to make where we can.
Ant Stones, Head of Education for Guildford Shakespeare comments 'We were lucky enough to run a programme called Spirit of Youth at the Queen Elizabeth Park Care Home, which began in the Autumn of 2018. Children from the local Weyfield Primary Academy worked with the residents to create their own versions of Shakespeare's plays. In the first year, the group rehearsed A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, which were performed in the care home to friends and family. We were absolutely thrilled with the results. The residents involved, aged between 69 and 97, showed great improvements in their confidence, sociability, mobility and physical strength. The children from Weyfield School, aged 7-8, were twice as likely to listen to instructions in class and more likely to work well with others. We are extremely grateful for the support from Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. Without them, the programme would simply never have happened.'
If you are a charity and you are interested in funding opportunities from the Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund, or if you are an business who is also looking to establish a corporate fund to engage staff and 'give something back', please contact Kate Peters at the Community Foundation for Surrey on info@CFSurrey.org.uk or on 01483 478092.
Please contact Sally Ashford, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys Guildford office for any further information: 01483 252508; Sally.Ashford@crsblaw.com