On Thursday October 7th, four of the Reading Family Aid committee went to the Town Hall in Reading to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service from Mr James Puxley, the Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire.
The purpose of the award is to recognise groups of individuals who give their time freely for the benefit of others and is the highest honour that can be bestowed on groups like us. We were nominated by the then Mayor, Cllr. Paul Woodward and we progressed through the various stages of assessment at the local and national levels to be finally approved by the Cabinet Office. The award states that we were honoured for "Putting smiles on the faces of children and families in the Reading area".
In his citation, Chris Barrett DL, Deputy Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, said:
"RFAG has no paid staff and virtually no overheads. It does not receive a grant from the local authority. It relies on fundraising events, generous business partners, donations from members of the public and occasional applications to charitable trusts.
COVID-19 has clearly challenged RFAG but it has maintained support for needy children.
This group of highly efficient and dedicated volunteers provides an exemplary service in circumstances which are often difficult and where the need is significant. Its practical and inclusive vision is inspirational. "
Reading's Mayor Congratulates Reading Family Aid on being awarded the Queens' Award for Voluntary Service
On September 29th Reading's Mayor Cllr David Stevens met with some of the Reading Family Aid Committee to congratulate them on winning the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. He said that the award is only given to volunteer groups that can demonstrate significant contribution to the wellbeing of the community over a long period of time with a good degree of professionalism. The award is the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups.
The award will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire on October 7th.
Reading Family Aid were one of 80 of charities from across Berkshire that were invited to attend a celebratory afternoon tea at Ascot Racecourse by Berkshire Community Foundation. It was ateended by the Duke of Wessex who thanked all the volunteers for the work we all did throughout the past year during the Covid pandemic.
Laura and Sallie attended on behalf of Reading Family Aid and Laura said "The weather was beautiful and the food was scrumptious! BCF supported us with a grant of £1875 at the end of 2020, which has been spent on events for disadvantaged Reading children over the summer holidays. The event also offered us the opportunity to meet others from our area who support disadvantaged children, including a couple of new contacts."
This summer, Reading Family Aid have been delighted to host a jam-packed agenda of events across the town, giving over 200 children and their families, a thoroughly deserved fun-filled day out!
Reading Canoe Club
The Reading Canoe Club experiences provided this year’s children with a new, exciting adventure. Most children had never been in a canoe before, and whilst there were some initial nerves, by the end of the session, there were smiles and laughter…particularly from those who got a little wet! It was great to see the children confidently handling the canoes and having such a great time. Most said they would love to go again, and some even want to join the club. Huge thanks to the club team; Dan, Jill, Phoebe Patrick and Georgia, for making this such a good day.
Parthian Climbing Centre
We sent a team of budding adventurers up the wall at the Parthian Climbing Centre – many of whom had never tried this kind of activity before. The children listened carefully to the instructors, and it was great to see their concentration when climbing. The beaming smiles of satisfaction when they were back on the ground conveyed a real sense of achievement. Thank you to all the staff who supported this successful event.
We welcomed over 100 people to the idyllic beach waterfront location for a fun day in the sun. The children loved splashing about in the water whilst the parents and carers took the opportunity to relax and recharge, knowing that the beady-eyed lifeguards were in control. Burgers, chips and ice-creams were enjoyed by all. Two refugee families said it was the “best day”. Our thanks to Christie, Karen, Kimi and all the team for making this such a huge success.
Play Rangers and Predator Assault Fun Day
Prospect Park saw over 100 children and their parents and carers, trying their hands at a variety of activities including Archery, Fire Building, Soft Play and Laser Combat. All the children were very keen to join in and spirits were high, even when the rain poured down, which was quickly turned into yet another fun activity toasting marshmallows under the shelter of a nearby tree. Many thanks to Richard and the team for their dedication – the children had a wonderful day.
Last, but by no means least, we were finally able to spend a day at Camp Mohawk. The families got the chance to enjoy the heated pool, music centre and all the outdoor spaces. It was noticeable that both the children and their carers became more and more relaxed as the day went on. We have a long-established relationship with Camp Mohawk, and it was very special to be able to return. Our thanks to Katie and her brilliant team for all they do to make this such a wonderful place.
Berkshire Community Foundation
We’d like to say a special thank you to the Berkshire Community Foundation whose generous donation supported us with funding many of this year’s Summer Events.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were also able to consider other ways of putting smiles on children’s faces as we headed into the summer. We were able to provide games, toys, and sports equipment to a number of organisations including the Weller Centre, the Cressingham Short Break Centre, and the Grassrootz youth club. We also provided toys to individual children referred by social workers, schools, and other charities. In total we brightened up nearly 300 children’s lives with new toys this summer.
Last Wednesday Wendy was presented with a cheque for £3,707 by Claire, the Events Manager at Sonning Golf Club. We are tremendously grateful for this generous donation, especially given the events of the past 18 months.
The donation will help fund this year's summer outings, which provide disadvantaged children in Reading with fun days out, as well as providing funds for our next Toy Project. Thank you!
On 1st July Reading Family Aid held this year's AGM.
Ruth welcomed everyone to the meeting especially, Sue Marston who was attending for the first time. There were no matters arising from the 2020 AGM, so following a brief discussion of the annual report the following persons were nominated and elected:
Chair - Sravanthi Yellapragada
Vice-Chair - Wendy Howell
Treasurer - Sue Marston
Secretary - Laura Windisch
Wendy presented Ruth, Sravanthi and David with small gifts to thank them for their work.
The AGM also offered a lovely opportunity to celebrate receiving The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service last month.
Reading Family Aid are thrilled to have been honoured with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The Charity began operating in the 1950s and became a registered charity in 1993. In the 1950s, we were helping a handful of families and the first outing recorded cost just £10. More recently, we have been helping up to 1000 families each year and, despite the challenges of 2020, we were still able to provide over 1400 children with gifts at Christmas with our generous supporters helping us raise over £33,000.
Reading Family Aid is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including an inclusive tennis club in Lincolnshire; a children’s bereavement charity in London; a support group for those living with dementia and their carers in North Yorkshire; a volunteer minibus service in Cumbria; a group supporting young people in Belfast; a community radio station in Inverness and a mountain rescue team in Powys.
Representatives of Reading Family Aid will receive the award crystal and certificate from Mr James Puxley, Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022 (depending on restrictions at the time).
Ruth Perkins, Chair says: “When we heard that we were to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service we were so excited, astonished and humbled. It was a huge honour to be nominated for it but to actually receive it is overwhelming. I'd like to thank Cllr Paul Woodward, Reading's Mayor at the time, for nominating us as well as Homestart Reading for supporting his nomination.
It is fantastic that the work that the charity has been doing in the Reading area for so many years has been so publicly recognised in this way. It is thanks to all those who work tirelessly on the RFA Committee but also to all those hundreds of volunteers who have come year after year to help with the Toys and Teens Appeal, to all those who have organised toy collections, raised funds and helped in a myriad of other ways.
This award is for all of you. Every one of you has helped to put so many smiles on so many children's faces and each of you deserves this recognition. Brilliant!”
It’s the FINAL week of Reading Family Aid’s Toys and Teens Appeal! For seven weeks the charity has been raising funds to buy presents for underprivileged children living in Reading and the surrounding areas at Christmas time. So far over £14,500 has been raised by generous donors and the charity hope to reach their target of £15,000. The money will be used to buy gifts for 1,200 children this Christmas.
The community has been showing its support, with groups like Reading Matins Rotary Club, schools and nurseries and companies including Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, The Fence Club, Roc Search and Collaborate + Create and Logicalis organising collections.
Elaine Kelly said “Logicalis are proud to have supported Reading Family Aid’s Toys and Teens appeal for the last 6 years. They do incredible work and really make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children in our community”.
First Days is an organisation that distributes the toys purchased as part of Reading Family Aid’s fundraiser. Their CEO, Emma Cantrall highlighted the importance of this appeal saying “It’s heartbreaking to think that parents already know that basics like gifts for their children are unaffordable”. First Days has had hundreds of requests for Christmas stockings and gifts and is expecting many more.
Sallie Wall, a volunteer at Reading Family Aid, has first hand experience of the effect the campaign can have. She said: “We were clearing up after Christmas and we got a call from a social worker saying 'I have a family who have just moved into a council house and have nothing, can you help?” "We went round there right away with some presents. The woman was in tears. It was a good feeling."
Reading Family Aid are extremely grateful for all of your generous donations. The fundraiser closes on 4th December so there is still time to donate if you haven’t already done so. Once the fundraiser closes, the money will be used to buy presents that will be sent directly to organisations and distributed to deprived children across Reading.
We would also like to thank our sponsors: The Reading Chronicle, Berkshire Freemasons, Big Yellow and Caversham Vehicle Hire.
It’s the penultimate week of Reading Family Aid’s Toys and Teens Appeal. The charity is raising funds to buy presents for underprivileged children living in Reading and the surrounding areas at Christmas time. So far over £11,000 has been raised by generous donors, but the charity hope to reach their target of £15,000 in order to help as many children as possible this Christmas.
MPs from Reading have kindly lent their support to the appeal. MP for Reading West Alok Sharma said:
“I am delighted to support the Toys and Teens Appeal again this year. The Appeal raises funds to buy Christmas presents for children in need in the local Reading area. Christmas is a time to remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves and I think it is testament to the excellent community spirit we have in Reading that, even in these incredibly difficult times, local people continue to be so generous.”
One of the Toys and Teens volunteers knows only too well how important an appeal like this can be.
David* said “Growing up I had six siblings and my father was a chronic alcoholic. We never had any money and were always desperate for food and clothes. We relied on the generosity of the local church and school. It was incredibly hard relying on other people. Kids at school took the mickey and you grew up real tough. But thanks to the generosity of appeals like this Christmas was great. We were given fruit and games as presents from the church, and I could go back to school and say I got something. I knew kids that didn’t get anything for Christmas”.
“In Reading today there is still true poverty, with families sleeping in one room with all of their children and single mums having to do desperate things to feed their kids. Children can’t control their circumstances, which is why Reading Family Aid’s Christmas appeal tugs at my heartstrings more than anything else. I’ve been there and I hope people donate to help this cause”.
The charity has set up a fundraising page and is asking you to donate money instead of gifts. The fundraising page will remain open until December 4 after which the funds will be used to buy presents that will be sent directly to organisations and distributed to deprived children across Reading.
There will be no donation points this year and the charity is unable to accept any gifts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
As well as donating, the charity would be incredibly grateful if you considered holding a fundraising event.
You could organise a ‘mufti day’ at school or the office, a pyjama day for your ‘Zoom’ meetings, or share our crowdfunding page on your social media.
*Name changed to protect anonymity
The Labour MP of Reading East, Matt Rhodda, and the Conservative MP of Maidenhead, Twyford and Hurst, Rt Hon Theresa May have expressed their support for a local charity’s Christmas Toy fundraiser. They are urging the Berkshire community to donate to the cause.
Matt Rhodda said: “I believe the toys and teens appeal is one of the most important at this time of year. I fully support it, and ask the community to offer all their help to make it the best one ever this Christmas. Due to Covid-19 it has been a difficult year for families and I believe this is an incredibly important initiative to help families at this difficult time”.
With over 28,000 children living below the breadline in Reading, this equates to more than one in three children who live in poverty. After paying for housing and utilities these families have just £19 a day to live on, which has to cover food, clothes, transport, birthdays and everything else they might need. Reading Family Aid are fundraising to provide presents for these underprivileged children living in Reading and the surrounding areas. Without your help, these children may not get a Christmas present this year.
Mrs May said: “I am urging as many people as possible to come forward and donate to Reading Family Aid’s Toys and Teens Appeal initiative. This fantastic local initiative raises money to ensure those most disadvantaged children locally receive presents this Christmas time. Christmas is a special time of year, but this year will be particularly difficult. That is why schemes such as this are more important than ever and Reading Family Aid do an excellent job bringing joy to many children throughout the festive period”.
The Christmas Toys and Teens Appeal, organised by Reading Family Aid, will be slightly different this year due to the pandemic. The charity has set up a fundraising page and is asking you to donate money instead of gifts. This money will then be used to buy new Christmas presents for disadvantaged children in Reading, which will be delivered directly to the organisations that help them.
Given the significant financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many, we are expecting more children than ever before to need your help. Anything you can give, no matter how small will make a huge difference to these families at Christmas time. Thank you.
Our fundraising page will remain open until 4th December, at which point the fund will be used to buy presents that will be sent directly to organisations and distributed to underprivileged children across Reading. We’d also like to give a big thank you to our sponsors: Berkshire Freemasons, Big Yellow, Caversham Vehicle Hire.
To donate, please visit our Go Fund Me crowdfunding page.
You can also print out a poster here.
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