When Tony Harrison and Andy Whittle visited the Warrington Youth Centre, they were there for two reasons. The first was to visit the Warrington Peace Centre, where the youth club is housed, with a donation from the MCF and to see how the money was being utilised. The second reason was to meet with Garston Group Chairman John Murphy and his ever-active Festival Representative Jim Corcoran to receive a donation from the Garston and Woolton Group for the MCF 2021 Festival.
Warrington Youth Club is a typical example of one of the ways the money we raise during the Festival is distributed locally. We have seen previously local grants to Air Ambulance, Galloways Society for the Blind, vulnerable children during the pandemic, local care homes, the Rainbow Trust, the sponsorship of research to combat arthritic pain, women’s’ refuge centres, food banks, the list goes on and on. On this occasion, 50 local children who are experiencing child poverty, social isolation and who have been at risk of ‘holiday hunger’ during the school holidays are being given the support they need, thanks to a grant of £29,000 from West Lancashire Freemasons to the Warrington Youth Club which will support a three year programme.
The charity runs a Boost Holiday Club which offers activities and healthy meals over the school holidays. They work in partnership with local agencies to identify children who are experiencing child poverty and at risk of not having regular and appropriate meals while away from school. Free places at the club are offered discreetly to local families in need and includes return transport to the Club, a healthy breakfast and lunch, a timetable of activities which promote social skills, health and life skills.
Warrington Youth Club has been supporting children and young people through quality activities since the 1930s. The charity was originally set up by a group of mothers who were concerned about their children getting into trouble after school. Based on the ethos of ‘Inspiring Young People to Achieve’, the charity has developed into the largest youth provision in Warrington, and today works with over 2,500 children and young people.
According to the latest figures, 27% of children in Warrington are living in poverty. This represents over 13,000 children and young people (Warrington Borough Profile 2020), who may not be getting their basic needs of food, shelter and care.
Holiday Hunger is an issue which has emerged in recent years, highlighting the vulnerability of children who are supported during school time with free school meals, who face the risk of going hungry during school holidays, particularly the 6-week summer holidays. The BBC report an estimated 3,000,000 children nationally at risk of going hungry during the summer break.
The aim of the Club’s programme is to address the compounded disadvantage experienced by young people living in poverty who are unable to access developmental activities and nutritious meals during school holidays. Families, often left without support for the 13 weeks of holidays, struggle to meet the additional food requirements, find affordable childcare (one in three children with a working single parent are living in poverty) and provide meaningful sports, arts, social and educational experiences affecting long-term outcomes and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. Dave McNicholl, Chief Executive of Warrington Youth Club, said:
“We’re extremely grateful to West Lancashire Freemasons for their generous grant, which is allowing us to support 50 disadvantaged children during the school holidays. It’s also helping us provide ongoing support for vulnerable children and families through the charity’s wider programme of youth work.”
Tony Harrison from West Lancashire Freemasons, said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help local children in need by supporting Warrington Youth Club during the school holidays. It’s essential that children who require free school meals during term time are not abandoned during the holidays, both in terms of food, as well as the educational and entertainment opportunities that other children take for granted while they are away from the classroom.”
Following the presentation, Tony Harrison and Andy Whittle were treated to a tour of the facilities by Dave McNicholl and Jamie Patterson from the youth club and were given an insight into the work they do and their plans for the future.
Just prior to the meeting, Tony and Andy met with John Murphy and Jim Corcoran in the grounds of the Warrington Peace Centre, Jim having a very pleasant duty to perform. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown the Woolton and Garston Group held a number of fundraising social events at Garston Freemasons Hall to support the MCF 2021 Festival. The events were well supported by members and their friends who enjoyed professional acts and discos together with the famous Garston carvery meal supplied by the resident chef Tony Ackroyd and his staff. At each event raffles and auctions for various wonderful prizes, including signed sporting memorabilia sourced by the Group Festival Steward Jim Corcoran, were held. As a result, they were able to present a cheque for £3,000 for the MCF 2021 Festival to Tony.
Things have been really difficult recently, but the fundraising efforts by Masons are something to be proud of, and they will continue, through the MCF Festival, to support local causes and the needy and vulnerable in our community.