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Newsquest gives £250,000 to local good causes

Cheques adding up to nearly a quarter of a million pounds are being sent out to charitable causes around the UK this Christmas on behalf of Newsquest Media Group.

The gifts will pay for everything from hospice beds to a new pony for disabled riders, says Newsquest.

Grants were made to organisations across the country in areas served by any of Newsquest’s 165 local news brands.

Over the last ten years, the fund has given away more than £3 million to help community causes from Scotland to the West Country.

Around £90,000 altogether this year was given for sophisticated medical equipment and services that public funds do not cover locally. As in previous years, Britain’s hospices were significant beneficiaries, but the trustees were especially pleased to fulfil a promise of £20,000 they made two years ago to complete the funding of a protein-analysing mass spectrometer for cancer research at the University of Bradford, which is now in use.

Funding was also given to an outfit called ‘Swift Medics’ in Wiltshire which sends trained doctors to the scene of medical emergencies. The trustees had been surprised to discover that the NHS does not usually provide for doctors to attend, relying instead on ambulances to get the injured back to the hospital.

The chair of the trustees, Simon Westrop, Head of Legal for Newsquest, said: “Swift Medics told us that ambulance paramedics are not trained to administer anaesthetics or perform emergency surgery, and a specially trained doctor at the scene can often make the difference between life and death”. Mr Westrop added: “Our newspapers will be monitoring this service in the coming years to see what benefits it brings.”

Among the established brands joining Newsquest this year is The Impartial Reporter in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, a title which made its first appearance in 1825. The town is also the home of the Aisling Centre which offers support and therapies for people from across the community suffering personal crisis or mental ill-health, particularly those who have been victims of the Troubles. A grant of £9,770 in their 25th anniversary year will transform the centre’s administrative processes and free resources for more counselling work.

“The trustees were impressed by the centre’s determination to make sure that there is a better future for everyone, regardless of past divisions in the community,” Mr Westrop said.

Grants this year from the UK trustees of the Gannett Foundation (the charitable trust of Gannett Co Inc, Newsquest's parent group) also include:

* £6,000 to pay for 100 home starter kits for rough sleepers on the South Coast

* £6,940 for an “eye-gaze” tracker device for the disabled at Chailey House in East Sussex, enabling computer control by eye movement.

* £3,680 for a polytunnel, fruit trees and gardening tools to expand a horticultural project in Glasgow for young people from poor families.

* £3,000 for the Wales Deaf Rugby Union.

* £2,500 to modernise the stage at a busy community hall in the North West.

* £7,200 for a walk-in cold room for a community farm shop in North Yorkshire.

* £2,500 for a new pony for disabled riders in Cheshire.

“It’s not as easy as you might think”, Mr Westrop says. “Of course there are lots of demands on donors from charities serving the sick, disabled and the poor. As local news publishers, we think we can also make a difference on a less obvious and simpler level. So we are always just as pleased to make relatively small but creative gifts to encourage activities of all kinds that enrich the daily lives of the people who read our brands. We hope visitors to Darley Memorial Hall in the North East will enjoy use of the new projector and screen we have paid for to enable them to run a new series of lectures. And we are glad that the scout group in Warrington that is getting a cheque from us for £2,850 towards some new tents can now look forward to fresh outdoor adventures next year.”

The fund has consistently supported specific media industry causes as well. Among other gifts this year, £10,000 has been given to Newstraid, a benevolent fund caring for workers in the newspaper retail and distribution trades, and £5,000 to the Rory Peck Trust, which supports the work of freelance journalists.

The Gannett Foundation UK retains a modest reserve to cater for urgent applications until next year’s round of awards in November, which can made through any local Newsquest Media Group editor. The trustees were able to grant £10,000 from this reserve in 2014 to help people caught up in the flooding on the Somerset Levels.