30 July 2015
B P Collins strides ahead in charity initiative
Informative, enjoyable and enlightening - those are the three words that we used to describe B P Collins' day on a Seeing is Believing tour with Heart of Bucks (HoB). Here, we talk about how and why the practice teamed up with HoB and our first-hand experiences of seeing the charity’s work in action.
This has been our first stewardship with HoB, so it was really important for us to get away from our desks and find out more about the projects. Not only did we want to see them for our own benefit, but it was also important to be able to feed that information back to our staff so they could understand more about what we are doing and why.
As a well-established law firm, we’ve always been committed to supporting local charities and giving back to the community, but in the past, a lack of structure for determining which causes to support meant the number of requests was often overwhelming and difficult to manage.
We struggled to understand the impact of our donations and whether the money could be better allocated, and we also wanted a decision making process that was more inclusive for all our staff.
When HoB presented us with the idea of an annual stewardship fund, we quickly saw that this would give us a fairer, more structured and measureable way to support and achieve our charitable objectives - three goals for how our donations should be attributed.
The fund considers applications for grants to a range of community groups across the county and our employees can also become involved, helping to decide which groups benefit and having the opportunity to volunteer and see for themselves the differences that are made.
That’s exactly what we did in early July, joining a tour of supporters, led by HoB chairman, The Countess Elizabeth Howe, to visit four charities in and around Aylesbury.
Above: The Seeing is Believing Tour group
First stop was the Calibre Audio Library, an inspirational charity which provides an audio book library service by post on CDs and memory sticks, and via streaming on its website, helping people who, for whatever reason, can no longer read.
Since 2012 the charity has been given three grants to help with volunteer training - currently they have 192 volunteers - and last year they loaned books out 395,366 times.
It was fascinating to hear from the team of dedicated staff and visit the vast library of books, watching as volunteers packaged up the latest novel, and it was also touching to read thank you letters from people whose partners were avid readers before losing their sight, and have experienced a new lease of life thanks to the service.
Above: The extensive library at Calibre Audio is kept in order by dedicated staff and volunteers
From there, we visited Lindengate, a mental health charity near Wendover, which offers social and therapeutic horticulture to support people with mental health needs.
It’s an amazing place, built out of a dream by friends Siân Chattle and Charlie Powell, who wanted to create a haven of peace and tranquillity.
More than 80 volunteers, including horticultural experts and psychologists, have helped transform this once overgrown, disused site into a thriving horticultural community filled with vegetables, butterfly gardens and wild flowers.
We talked to Siân and Charlie about their vision and chatted to volunteers and gardeners about how being outdoors and feeling a part of a team has helped to really make a difference.
Above: A wheelbarrow is transformed by the gardeners at Lindengate
With lunchtime approaching, our fortuitous next visit was to More+, run by Broughton Community Action, a charity set up in 2013 by Broughton Church. It’s a community café which, through HoB funding, has provided a vital and inclusive social space - not to mention fabulous and tasty food.
There, the Rev Phil White told us about his vision to build a real community in Broughton and, over lunch, we heard from an older member of the community about how she loves coming to the café to chat, read or knit with other regulars.
We saw first-hand how mothers with young children use the centre, and found out about special music and food and wine evenings, all of which are helping the café become a real hub for people of all ages to get to know their neighbours.
Above: Cafe regulars make friends at More+
The final trip was to Youth Concern Aylesbury, where CEO Fran Borg-Wheeler was on hand to speak about how the charity helps vulnerable young people in the community; as well as the tireless efforts of its staff, volunteers and trustees.
Above: Young people get creative in the music studio at Youth Concern (photo © Youth Concern)
In addition to offering guidance, support and counselling, there is a music studio and IT studio - which helps youngsters to write CVs or receive tuition - and we heard from counsellors about their experiences of working with teenagers who struggle with drug abuse or experience violence or isolation.
Importantly, two young people told us how Youth Concern had changed their lives, one explaining how the team had supported him to become drug free; and the other, a young girl who had been living in a tent until the charity found her accommodation, spoke of her sense of becoming part of a family again.
Theirs were incredibly powerful stories and, if anyone is looking for a good reason to help support charities through HoB, we would say these two young people provided the answer.