Freemasons and The News launch project to help deserving projects amid hub of excitement at packed event

THOSE spearheading support for good causes were present for the grand launch of a new charity partnership between The News and local Freemasons to boost those deserving of a helping hand.

By Steve Deeks
Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:53 pm
The News Community Chest revised
The News Community Chest revised

Cosham Masonic Centre was a hub of excitement on Saturday evening as Freemasons, groups and people delivering vital help to numerous causes, were joined by guests and dignitaries for the launch of The Community Chest project.

Editor of The News, Mark Waldron, told those present he was ‘honoured’ to help launch the initiative that will see 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.

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Representatives from the Alex Wardle Foundation tell members about their work on Saturday night at the Masonic Hall in Cosham. Photo by Alex Shute

Readers are invited to nominate local worthy causes who could use funding to further their work.

Representatives from charities the Freemasons supported during the lockdowns attended the launch event on Saturday.

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Paul Miles-Knight, captain and chaplain at Troop 101 Independent Cadet Force based in Waterlooville, was among the groups to have received a helping hand. He said: ‘The project with The News is brilliant.

The News Editor Mark Waldron, Roger Maber, the Lady Mayoress and Lord Mayor, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt ant other represntatives on Saturday night at the Masonic Hall in Cosham, launching the Freemasons Community Chest. Photo By Alex Shute

‘Donations we received enabled cadets to come through lockdown with a completely improved experience.

‘The fact the project is also The News readers’ choices for donations will open it up even further. Any worthy cause within the area means the Freemasons will now become aware of.

‘It’s not just about the money. It will also encourage freemasons to form a more personal link to organisations and people they were not aware of.’

The Alex Wardle Foundation was launched by Gemma Wardle after her brother died suddenly in March 2016.

The 23-year-old died from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (Sads) after he collapsed in their Lee-on-the-Solent home.

Gemma and her dad Stephen have been fundraising for life-saving defibrillators and funding for people to have medical screening that has helped reveal unknown conditions.

‘It’s really important for us to get out there and tell our story and make a difference,’ Gemma said.

‘If one person is more aware of us (from the project) and that makes a difference then our job is done.’

Stephen said: ‘It’s important to raise the profile of Sads. We’ve raised the profile of where we are with defibrillators - which you have an 85 per cent chance of survival when treated by one.

‘We’re putting them into community centres, schools, rugby and football clubs because this will save lives.’

The Elizabeth Foundation, which helps deaf children to listen and talk, has celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

Karen Vaughan, deputy chief executive, said: ‘We are totally reliant on our community for funding which is why we are so very grateful for people at the Community Chest to help us.

‘We have developed from an organisation set up in (founder) Shirley Metherell’s front room with five children to having our own family centre where we have around 80 children doing face to face lessons.

‘We provide support for those with a diagnosis of hearing loss to support family and offer baby, toddler and pre-school services to support the children and their parents.

‘We aim to make sure the children become really confident and capable communicators but also help families through their journey.’

Portsmouth Breast Friends celebrated two decades in August of providing a friendly lifeline for people going through, and recovering from, diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer in the area.

Chair Sandy Williams said of the project: ‘It’s amazing. In the past the freemasons have raised money which has helped us pay for new business cards which we need for a relaunch as we’re coming out of a period where we haven’t been able to meet up for nearly two years.

‘From now on we will have to pay for premises which we’ve not had to do before because we were at Queen Alexandra Hospital before which was free.

‘We want to get our name out there that we’re still here.’

Treasurer Lauren Farnhill said: ‘We had a gathering to celebrate and to mark more face to face meetings. To sit down with someone and give advice is very important.

‘We’re now back and we have direct feed into the breast care nurses at QA and we want to tell people we’re in business and to refer people to us.’

Forgotten Veterans, founded by Gary Weaver, has seen his charity take off since launching two and a half years ago - but stressed more needs to be done to help veterans struggling.

‘We work on all the issues veterans have and suddenly when people say their health has improved that’s when we look for the underlying condition,’ he said.

‘We’re the only ones in the country who will go anywhere in the country to help someone in need.’

Diane Withers and Devina Barraclough, volunteers with the charity, were present with Gary at the launch event.

‘Devina felt something was missing in her life and with the help of Forgotten Veterans was able to identify as transgender,’ Gary said.

Devina, 53, said: ‘I was able to come in to camp and experiment with this persona and see how it felt. I felt safer to do it there.’

Meanwhile Freemasons were proud of their involvement in the Community Chest project.

David Perkis, deputy provincial grand master of Hampshire and Isle of Wight, said: ‘Fundraising is very dear to our hearts and collectively we can do an awful lot. For us it’s so wonderful to support such worthy causes.

‘When I listen to the work some of the charities do that none of us know it is incredible. If we can make a difference to people’s lives then it makes it all worthwhile.

‘(The project) also helps us because for far too long we’ve kept quiet about what we do so it helps us and the public to understand what Freemasons do.’

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

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]

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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