A COMMUNITY group that keeps people connected and reduces isolation has received a £10,000 National Lottery grant.

My Home Life Essex Community Association brings together volunteers, charities and organisations to tackle loneliness in care homes.

It supports residents, staff and families by running activities, seasonal events, wish-granting schemes and outings, working in tandem with the volunteer Friends and Neighbours (FaNs) network.

The association has received The National Lottery Community Fund grant to support its efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning it is able to continue delivering a programme of support, deliver essential supplies and care packages and keep spirits raised in care homes in Colchester, Clacton and other parts of north and mid-Essex.

Trustee Pamela Graham said: “Thanks to this grant, the charity will be able to manage the increased demands and challenges resulting from the covid-19 impact.

"Along with some amazing care-home staff, we are working tirelessly to respond and adapt our activities to maintain our community connections with care homes, particularly to prevent isolation and loneliness when the usual visits of family, friends and our Friends and Neighbours volunteers have been so sadly disrupted by this pandemic.

“We are hugely grateful to all those who play the National Lottery to make funding awards like this possible and to our Friends and Neighbours network, Essex community and partners who have stepped up to support us even more than usual at this vital time.”

The Friends and Neighbours network is made up of more than 2,000 individuals and organisations, working together to keep care-home residents connected and supported.

Since the lockdown, the charity’s volunteers have worked tirelessly to adapt the programme of support to help reduce loneliness, deliver essential supplies and care packages and keep spirits raised.

One example is the group’s popular Wishing Washing Line initiative, which collates the wishes and needs of care-home residents and shares them with the community so they can be granted by kind-hearted people and organisations.

Over the past few weeks, wishes granted have included a CD player and CDs, board games and care packages, including hand creams, shower gels, coffee and sweet treats.

My Home Life Essex Community Association is also working alongside award-winning charity Lads Need Dads to run a pen-pal initiative.

The scheme, which began in May, matches up young people with male care-home residents to form bonds and friendships through writing letters to each other.

The group has also sourced a massive amount of Personal Protective Equipment, donated by the Friends and Neighbours network, and distributed it to over 80 care homes across mid and north Essex.

In the last month, more than £525,715 of National Lottery funding has been awarded to community projects in Essex.

Helen Bushell, head of funding for south-east England at the National Lottery Community Fund, said: “The strength we’re seeing in communities across the east of England is inspiring.

"Although we’re beginning to see lockdown restrictions ease, community organisations – big and small – are still grappling with the impact caused by the crisis.

“National Lottery funding is life-changing for projects like My Home Life Essex Community Association in keeping their communities connected and reaching those who need the most help.

"Our priority is to continue getting funding, which is more vital than ever before, out to community groups so they can rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”