A HEREFORDSHIRE charity has been given a £2,500 boost from the Hereford Times.

ECHO, which works to improve the lives of disabled people, will spend the money on improvements at the Priory Centre, Leominster.

The centre runs sessions in areas such as health and fitness, cooking, horticulture and crafts that help participants get more out of life.

In its application, ECHO, which is based in West Street, Leominster, said: "Improving the facilities at the Priory means we can offer our activities to people with a much wider range of disabilities confident in the knowledge that we can provide high-quality engaging activities for them."

The Hereford Times grant to the charity is made by the newspaper's publisher, Newsquest Media Group, one of the country's leading news publishers.

It has just made donations of more than £140,000 to 40 different community organisations around the country.

The awards are made through the Gannett Foundation UK, whose trustees have now completed their annual task of working through a stack of deserving applications submitted through Newsquest’s 200 news titles and magazines.

Decisions are made entirely on merit and the extent to which the trustees think an award will deliver a real and lasting practical benefit to the communities served by those print and online services.

Challenging social problems affecting many of our towns and cities have been reflected in some of the successful applications.

The trustees were particularly impressed by a project in Bournemouth, Dorset, intended to fill the hole left by the decimation of town centre retailing with opportunities for disadvantaged local youth.

“Creative Kids” already runs arts activities in one empty unit in a shopping centre in Boscombe and is moving into another where they are creating a community cinema. The trustees are paying for the projector, screen and theatre curtains they need to get started.

Chairman of the trustees Simon Westrop said: “It really is a pleasure for us to find and help people who are giving up their own free time to help others in inventive ways that answer very specific local needs in the community, because this is where our newspapers are too and we want to support what is good about the places we live in and make them even better if we can.”

In Newport, South Wales, a charity called Amazing Grace Spaces offers accommodation for homeless women, and the trustees have awarded them funds to buy bedroom furniture.

Over in Wiltshire, the town of Salisbury is noted for the grandeur of its cathedral rather than the blight of poverty, but look more closely and a slightly different picture emerges. Funds are also going to furnish a house run by Salisbury Trust for the Homeless.

The hospice movement rarely misses out in the annual round of awards. This time money is granted to hospices in Workington, Cumbria and Renfrewshire in Scotland.

Another theme that tends to repeat itself in succeeding years focuses on community construction projects, typically involving gardens or historical structures revived and brought back into recreational use.

Grants are being made to a project restoring the Montgomery Canal in North Wales and a similar canal project based in Stroud in the Cotswolds.

And then there are the Erlas Victorian Gardens in Wrexham, North Wales, bringing activities for disabled volunteers, fruit and vegetables for sale and a delightful place to visit for the general public.

In Glasgow and the Isle of Wight grants from the trustees will help turn unused spaces into flourishing gardens for the pleasure of local residents.

Children too are being encouraged into more challenging outdoor adventures. Thanks to money from Newsquest, youngsters are now better equipped to go sailing on the River Stour in Essex, and girl guides in Surrey will find their campsite lodge in the woods a lot more comfortable with its new boiler and heating.

Many more grants were given across the UK for a wide variety of good causes, including support for the disabled, the elderly and those just down on their luck.

If your application missed out in 2019, you can try again later this year. Awards are made on merit and applications are invited by advertisement in your local Newsquest Media Group newspaper, such as the Hereford Times, in print or online from the end of July.

The Gannett Foundation UK, which makes the grants, retains a modest reserve to cater for urgent applications in cases of real need until the next round of awards are made in December 2020. Such ad hoc applications can be made through any local Newsquest Media Group editor.

Special awards went to a number of charities connected with the news industry.

The trustees gave £10,000 each to the Journalists Charity (for journalists or former journalists in need), the National Council for the Training of Journalists (for education and training), and the Newstraid Benevolent Fund (for people from retailing and distribution businesses who have fallen on hard times).

Simon Westrop, said: “If your application did not succeed this time, please don’t be discouraged.

“Bear in mind that most of the successful applications are not necessarily big projects or headline-grabbers, but rather smaller ones that meet a particular need and instantly improve daily life.

"For instance, that new fridge or kettle the community centre has been wanting for ages. So think practically.