Christmas has come early for 139 community groups across Northern Ireland who are sharing a total of 6.8million of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund.
The National Lottery funding is being used to bring isolated people together in warm spaces, to support people struggling with the rising cost of living, and to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable people during the festive period.
Valerie Davis and Lorna Stewart with Emilee Elder and Imogen McGuinness, enjoying the festivities at Balnamore Community Association's Christmas dinner.
Out of the 139 groups awarded funding, 119 of them have received small grants to make a big difference in their community, including Balnamore Community Association. The group, based near Ballymoney, is bringing young and older people together to take part in shared activities, build relationships and learn from each other.
Mitzi Laverty, Trustee of Balnamore Community Association said: Thanks to a 10,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, we are bringing joy to older people in the area who are feeling particularly lonely and isolated during the winter months. Last week a group of local young people prepared a Christmas event for the older people - it was lovely to see their smiling faces, making connections and enjoying a hot meal with great company. This has built good relationships between our younger and older generations and will help the community move forward onto the next stage of our project where our younger people will become buddies for the older people, to mentor each other and build their self-esteem.
Dorothy Blair with Samantha Morton, enjoying the festivities at Balnamore Community Association's Christmas dinner.
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than 30 million a week is raised for good causes, including The Resource Centre Derry. They have been awarded a 173,278 National Lottery grant to expand their Meals on Wheels Service and support people over the next two years.
Patrick McCarron, CEO, The Resource Centre Derry said: We're providing nutritious meals to 120 older or vulnerable people who are struggling to cook proper meals themselves or buy healthy ingredients due to the rising cost of living. But we don't just deliver the meals, we also check-in on people's health and wellbeing, give them some human contact and help them to feel less lonely - we might be the only person they speak to that day.
Our team of cooks, drivers and volunteers are providing much needed support and always looking out for potential health and safety risks in the older people's homes or signposting to additional support they could receive.
Also receiving funding is BOMOKO NI, which has been awarded a 10,000 grant to provide activities and food hampers for refugee and asylum seeker women living in Belfast. The project is bringing women together for festive celebrations to share food from different countries and learn about different cultures. They will also take part in walking groups and creative workshops to build friendships and improve their mental health.
Paul Sweeney, The National Lottery Community Fund's NI Chair, said: I'm proud to see the impact our funded projects are having in people's lives and across communities in Northern Ireland. This winter is difficult for many but thanks to these projects, people are being supported to make connections and feel less isolated.
We are supporting groups to deal with the rising costs that are challenging their services and working flexibly to ensure that National Lottery funding is continuing to reach people who need support.
For more information on National Lottery funding visit www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/northern-ireland.
Click here to download a full list of grants awarded
Notes to Editors
About The National Lottery Community Fund
We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK - we support people and communities to thrive.
We're proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to work closely with Government to distribute vital grants and funding from key Government programmes and initiatives.
Our funding has a positive impact and makes a difference to people's lives. We support projects focussed on things that matter, including economic prosperity, employment, young people, mental health, loneliness and helping the UK reach NET Zero by 2050.
Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We're privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.
National Lottery players raise over 30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. More than 47 billion has now been raised by National Lottery players to support good causes since 1994. More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funding, the equivalent of around 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district.