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Cestria savings support community groups


Published by Kelly Elliott for Cestria Community Housing in Housing and also in Communities

Representatives from the 14 community groups awarded funding from Cestria, along with tenant members of Cestria’s Value for Money Group and Cestria staff, including accountant Andrew Carlton (front) Representatives from the 14 community groups awarded funding from Cestria, along with tenant members of Cestria’s Value for Money Group and Cestria staff, including accountant Andrew Carlton (front)

More than £11,000 has been donated to community groups in Chester-le-Street by a local housing association, with gardening projects, disabled groups and sporting initiatives all benefitting.

The funding was awarded by Cestria Community Housing following a drive by the association to make efficiency savings within the business.

Staff asked tenants where they would like some of the efficiency savings to be used and the answer was clear – reinvested back into the local community.

Local groups and charities were invited to apply for funding, with 14 projects selected, sharing £11,355 between them.

Amongst the beneficiaries is Aspire Learning, Support and Wellbeing - a new group which offers support and advice to women, some of who have suffered domestic abuse or mental health issues, with the aim of improving their confidence and self-esteem.

Volunteer treasurer Emily Huitson said: “Aspire was set up following the closure of a local charity called Bridge, which had made a real impact on the lives of local women.

“We welcome ladies from all walks of life – for many of them, walking through the door for the first time can be daunting but it can change their lives.

“The donation from Cestria will really help us get the group going and we’re very grateful.”

Also benefitting from a donation is Bournmoor Primary School, which will use the £800 they were awarded to turn a derelict piece of land into a wildlife area.

Deputy head teacher Laura Snowdon said: “We plan to install bat boxes, plant flowers to attract butterflies and are even having some observation boxes made so the children can get up close to the wildlife.

“They’re really excited and it will be a great resource to have – we plan to use it for science lessons and also make it available to other local groups to use.

“I think it’s wonderful that Cestria are supporting the community in this way – it makes such a difference.”

The idea for the community fund project came from Cestria’s Tenant Reference Group, with tenant members from the association’s Value for Money Group then deciding which groups would benefit.

Cestria accountant Andrew Carlton said: “Our organisation isn’t just about putting roofs over people’s heads; it’s about supporting everyone that lives in the areas in which we work.

“We want to create pride in our communities and we know that there are many groups out there doing fantastic work, offering help, advice and opportunities to local people. By supporting them we are supporting the whole community.”

The money donated came from efficiency savings made by Cestria over the last year, for example, changing the size and paper stock of the Association’s tenants newsletter. It is hoped that similar donations will now be made on an annual basis.

Other groups to benefit this time around include the Dunelm and Abbey PHAB clubs which provide activities for people with physical and learning disabilities, the Edmondsley Young Gardeners Club, Chester-le-Street Whitehills Football Club, Haven Art Group, Pelton Fell Youth Project, Chester-le-Street Amateur Operatic Society, Durham Constabulary’s activity week and AMS Holidays, which provides holidays tailored for the needs of disabled members.

Cestria also supports local groups and individuals through its Community Benefits Fund, which is administered through the County Durham Community Foundation.

Since forming in 2008 Cestria has spent £51.5m on improving its 4,300 properties. This has included fitting new doors and windows to 3,077 homes, new kitchens and bathrooms in 2,516 homes, new heating systems and electrical upgrades to 2,449 homes and carrying out roof replacements and repairs to a further 1,255 homes.


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