A FAR-REACHING charity which extends a helping hand to causes across Colchester has dished out more than £65,000 in grants so far this year.

In one of its most successful years since its inception almost 30 years ago, Colchester Catalyst Charity split around £550,000 between dozens of charities supporting the sick and disabled in 2017.

But bosses are already looking ahead in the hope of breaking records once more.

This year the charity has already proved a catalyst for the funding of a new mini-bus and sensory room for children with special needs, equipment to aid in the recovery of leg wounds and new play equipment for youngsters.

Rodney Appleyard, development manager for the charity, said: "While statutory bodies are cutting back, we have been steadily increasing our funding over the last few years as the needs have grown.

"We are happy to keep doing that and always spend on what is needed.

"We are happy to pushed if people think we should to concentrate on supporting needs in new and different areas.

"Colchester Catalyst has never turned down a grant because we didn’t have enough money - only if the quality is not high enough.

"So quality, based on evidence of need, is key to us."

This year a grant of £33,939 has already helped Stepping Stones and Colchester Gateway clubs purchase a new mini-bus, to be used to transport special needs youngsters to respite and social activities.

Carol Nice MBE, Stepping Stones founder, said the bus would prove "invaluable" to the children.

"It will make a big difference to the lives of the children we help and their parents, because many of our children find it difficult to go out on trips," she said.

"This mini-bus will enable us to take children from our nursery and after school clubs out into the community, to enjoy bowling, swimming and experience a wide range of fun activities.

“It will also allow us to teach them some very important social skills needed when going into shops and restaurants, which will help the families massively when they take them out.

"It will make those places much more accessible for the families in the future.

“We also pick up the children from the schools in the morning and take them home, so the parents will experience a whole day of respite until 6pm."

A donation of £13,000 will fund a new sensory room at Doucecroft School, in Colchester, providing support for children with special needs to relax and recover.

Anna Rogers, head of fundraising at Autism Anglia, said: "The room will benefit all the students here at Doucecroft and with the latest equipment and technology, the children will be able to control the environment themselves.

"The room is designed to be multi-functional, so it can be used for sensory stimulation, relaxation, learning, the development of new skills, interaction, communication and importantly, fun.

“We are so grateful to Colchester Catalyst for making this project possible.”

A grant of £10,000 will fund a pilot scheme providing support for people living in Jaywick suffering from depression and mental health problems.

Clacton Leg Club benefitted from £3,000 to purchase a state-of-the-art machine enabling people with leg ulcers and wounds to access better treatment, while Play and Resource Centre will use a £2,500 donation to purchase new soft play equipment at Great Notley Country Park.

Colchester Catalyst also want to hear from individuals who need financial assistance with purchasing medical equipment.

The charity will offer up to £1,000 towards the cost and is calling on those in need to get in touch and ask about donations.

Those interested can get in touch via facebook.com/colchestercatalyst