Sudbury’s Bridge Project secures final piece of funding jigsaw with £234,000 grant to help complete new HQ
The final piece in the funding jigsaw for a Sudbury charity’s long-term expansion project has been secured, enabling the delivery of “enormous social benefits” to the community.
The Bridge Project successfully bid for £234,000 in National Lottery funding to support the extended offering at its new base next to AFC Sudbury in Brundon Lane, with construction work due to finish by the spring.
The money will go towards developing unused land into a kitchen garden, and the hiring of new horticulture and cooking tutors, to provide more learning opportunities for disadvantaged and vulnerable adults.
Bridge Project chief executive Dave Jackson said this will enable the charity to create a “cyclical loop of disparate parts of the community coming together to support each other”.
He explained that, not only will the garden help to teach clients key skills by growing their own produce, it will also supply the Create café in Borehamgate, where many Bridge Project students have work experience placements.
In addition, it will provide food for the charity’s meal delivery service, which serves vulnerable residents in and around Sudbury.
“It’s a huge expansion for us, and a huge benefit for the wider community,” Mr Jackson told the Free Press. “The expansion of our offer is absolutely incredible.
“We’ve got these very different elements that our students can access, and our managers at each site work to ensure that these operate as a really nice social enterprise model.”
Paul Mackman, chairman of trustees at the Bridge Project, said: “This funding is a key component to the roll-out of Dave’s five-year plan for the Bridge Project, and the realisation of those aspirations.
“It unlocks a very key component of that strategy, and it will have a massive social impact for Sudbury.
“The lottery funding has been over a year in the making – we submitted our application in June last year, and a huge amount of time and resource has gone into the process.
“This represents a huge impact by our CEO, so Dave is to be congratulated for that.”
A portion of funding has also been allocated for extending the Bridge Project’s fleet of electric vehicles, allowing environmentally-friendly transport between the charity’s different sites.
These include the recently-relaunched Sudbury Arts Centre – formerly St Peter’s – where the organisation has formed a partnership to run the bar and provide hospitality services for events.
On top of the £234,000 grant, there was a further funding boost for the social enterprise on Monday, when it received £66,000 from the National Lottery’s Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund.
This will help maintain the meal delivery service, and add to the charity’s reserves, to ensure that it can weather challenges such as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Jackson stated that their long-term goal is to reduce their reliance on charitable grants, but also make sure they do not pass on any spikes in costs to service users.
“The last thing we want to do is pass on that impact,” he said. “We want to generate as much revenue as possible through our social enterprises, and then we can be more reactive with the money we have.
“We’ve always been a social enterprise-driven charity. That’s our key focus, and most of that has been through hospitality and catering.
“We also want to provide as many opportunities as we can to our students to be public-facing in the community and help build their self-esteem.
“That’s why we’ve taken on the Sudbury Arts Centre, Create and the meal delivery service.”
With the Bridge Project’s new base off Brundon Lane due to be completed in the new year, Mr Jackson added that they are “engaging in a different relationship” with AFC Sudbury – but they intend to remain “lovely neighbours”.
The change in arrangements mean that the football club has resumed control of its clubhouse catering operations, after they had been run for an extended period by the charity during matchdays and public events.
Mr Jackson also explained that, while operating without a home in recent months had been challenging, new opportunities had emerged during this period that they are keen to maintain in the future.
These include links with West Suffolk College to give placements on courses for its clients to learn important functional skills, as well as partnerships with local village halls for various activity sessions.
To find out more about the Bridge Project, call 01787 313691 or go to www.thebridgeproject.co.uk.