Deserving Gosport and Fareham charities gratefully receive cash boost from Freemasons' Community Chest scheme for vital work

DESERVING charities gratefully received a cash boost for their vital work in the community from Freemasons in a scheme supported by The News.

By Steve Deeks
Monday, 28th March 2022, 1:34 pm

Four groups were each handed a £300 cheque at Gosport Masonic Hall on Saturday evening as part of the Community Chest scheme after being nominated by News readers and then shortlisted by a panel of judges.

The initiative launched in September with money fundraised by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Masons awarded to ‘incredible’ groups across the area.

On Saturday the Multiple Sclerosis Society, MHA Communities Gosport & Fareham, The Rainbow Centre and Fareham Monday Club were all on hand to pick up their awards.

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The News Editor Mark Waldron joined with the Gosport and Fareham area Freemasons to award grants to four deserving local organisations on Saturday evening at Gosport Masonic Centre. Also in attendance was Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Mark Hook, mayor of Gosport, John Whitaker and Adrian Clayton Hills. Photos by Alex Shute

The event, which featured a raffle, was attended by MP Dame Caroline Dinenage, mayor of Gosport Mark Hook, John Whitaker and Adrian Clayton Hills from the Gosport and Fareham area Freemasons.

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Editor of The News Mark Waldron, hosting the event, said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be here for this special occasion.

‘The partnership started from a conversation with the Freemasons about them helping good causes and charities.

Dame Caroline Dinenage MP presents cheque to Gosport and Fareham Multiple Sclerosis Society chairs Jenny Jessup (left) and Tina Walker. Photos by Alex Shute

‘Not many people know about the work they do and I thought it was about time we started sharing that information. From there, a partnership with The News was born to use our power to spread the word and let everyone know what is going on.’

The initiative sees a cash pot of £1,000 handed out every two months for one-off projects, or to help kick-start longer-term projects.

Funds for the project, which will run for a year, will be raised by a bi-monthly live raffle held at Cosham, Fareham, and Gosport masonic centres.

At the last event in Cosham three local charities received awards.

Mayor of Gosport Mark Hook with Debbie Spicer from MHA Communities Gosport & Fareham. Photos by Alex Shute

Roger Maber, provincial communications officer for the local Freemasons, said the initial idea came about during lockdown in order for lodges to stay connected and keep fundraising. ‘It was a brilliant idea,’ he said.

‘The initiative raised around £35,000 all of which went to local charities and this was then picked up by The News and taken forward and formed The Community Chest partnership.’

Ms Dinenage, Cllr Hook, Mr Whitaker and Mr Hills were all thanked for their contributions in the scheme after presenting the cheques.

Nominations are open to any group or individual in Portsmouth and the local authority areas of Gosport, Fareham, Havant, East Hampshire and Winchester.

The Rainbow Centre's Yvonne Campbell presented with a cheque. Photos by Alex Shute

All entries will be adjudicated by a judging panel, including Mr Waldron, two Freemasons, and two external members.

To make a nomination, send details about the group, what the money would be for, and how this would benefit the local community to [email protected]


Fareham-based The Rainbow Centre supports children with cerebral palsy and adults with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and those recovering from a stroke.

The charity provides a positive system of learning called ‘Conductive Education’ that focuses on what individuals are able to do in order to become active, happy and proud of their achievements.

The charity is now expanding its adult service to help people with other motor impairment disabilities by using the Conductive Education practices to enhance neurological improvement.

Fiona McCrae (left) of Fareham Monday Club with cheque. Photo by Alex Shute

This is achieved by helping people find different and easier ways to do things, learn or relearn lost or hard to do life independence skills.

Yvonne Campbell, head of fundraising, said: ‘Following a difficult time following the pandemic we were left with just four staff working providing group sessions for children and adults and myself just purely trying to find funding.

‘Some of the charities around us are no longer here so we’re very lucky we were successful in gaining support. We’ve had volunteers coming back in and helping us.

‘This kind of support in receiving the cheque is not only of monetary value but the awareness is just as valuable. We started as a children’s charity but most people don’t realise we care for adults with neurological conditions such as strokes.

‘So for us it opens that door. The money goes into the pot and allows us to continue being open but the awareness is just as valuable.

‘We’re delighted to accept the award and thrilled to be noticed in the community.’

MHA Communities Gosport & Fareham helps older people over 60 to maintain their independence and live more fulfilled lives. It tackles loneliness and isolation and helps people remain as active members in their local communities.

This is done through befriending, lunch clubs, assisted shopping, activity and friendship sessions, outings and having escorts to appointments amongst other things.

The charity, started in 1940, has since evolved and expanded with the local branch meeting at Bridgemary Church in Gosport.

Co-ordinator Debbie Spicer said: ‘It is fantastic the Freemasons have donated us the money.

‘We try to help older people live longer and better lives whether it is befriending in the homes or at one of our two lunches a week at the church or at various clubs.

‘The issue we have at the moment is Hampshire County Council wanting to cut adult services funds so we are desperately trying to keep it going as best we can.

‘The pandemic has shown how lonely and isolated the elderly have been with not being able to see loved ones.

‘So their visit to an MHA lunch or club might be their only way of seeing someone or getting out of the house all week.

‘It’s lovely to be recognised in the community thanks to my predecessor Pam’s hard work.

‘The money will go towards outings and to keep the club going as best we can through lunches and services.’

Fareham Monday Club, part of Community First, helps isolated people in the north-west of Fareham and meets every other week.

A volunteer driver picks up individuals who live alone before taking them to the Northwest Community Centre.

There, people enjoy socialising, activities, homemade cakes and tea. The group will also go out on trips into the community to places like cafes or garden centres.

Former Queen Alexandra Hospital rheumatologist Fiona McCrae now volunteers to run the club. She said: ‘It’s great to win the award and be donated the money.

‘We had a problem over lockdown as we weren’t able to bring more than six people in the minibus which cost us more than we asked people to pay. We ended up with a deficit because there weren’t enough people paying to come in it.

‘We’ve built up a debt to the transport team for the minibus hire so this money will help to pay for that. We will also use the money to go to nicer places and go further distances and maybe open the club up once a week.

‘We might also be able to subsidise outings as at the moment the people going have to pay for everything.’

The Gosport and Fareham Multiple Sclerosis Society offers support to sufferers struggling coming to terms with a new diagnosis or a change in function by offering counselling.

The group also offers one to one physiotherapy sessions to help with mobility and helps people with funding for equipment through health and wellbeing grants

Chairs Jenny Jessup and Tina Walker picked up the cheque along with Tina’s assistance dog Eliza.

‘We can do so much with the money and can help so many people,’ they said.

‘We run exercise classes and music movement classes so people are physically moving and having a laugh and getting that social interaction.

‘During Covid everyone was locked away and frightened to come out but now people are edging their way to being more social again so we are hoping it will get back to pre-pandemic levels.

‘Events like this are important to raise awareness and show we exist in the community.

‘When people get diagnosed it is a very scary time with the world they had planned changing and with it affecting so many things in your body - it is frightening.

‘The able-bodied world doesn't understand what you are going through whereas talking to someone that has been there and done it and who understands and who you can share things with is important.’

The money will go towards exercise classes, physiotherapy and counselling, as well as grants for medical equipment.

They added: ‘If people who can’t afford it want to go and do their shopping and reach the shelves and be independent they come to the group for grants. The grants are for various purposes that allow them to be independent.

‘It’s really important to let people have the appearance of independence because that gives them a sense of self-worth which can go very quickly when everything else is going badly wrong.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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The News Editor Mark Waldron joined with the Gosport and Fareham area Freemasons to award grants to four deserving local organisations on Saturday evening at Gosport Masonic Centre. Also in attendance was Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Mark Hook, Mayor of Gosport, John Whitaker and Adrian Clayton Hills. Photos by Alex Shute