“Every once in a while a special person emerges. Charlotte Aspley is Lichfield’s special person.” As the booming voice of Lichfield’s Town Crier (AKA Ken Knowles) rang out, the crowd gathered to celebrate the first birthday of Shining Stars smile in admiration in the direction of Charlotte. Charlotte lives with Mosaic Down Syndrome and is the driving force behind the initiative that gives people living with a learning disability the chance to enjoy a night out on the town in a safe and secure environment. Charlotte recognised that there was nowhere for people with a learning disability to go and enjoy a night out with friends so she approached Walkabout in Lichfield and set about raising the funds to make it happen. As well as donations from Tesco and local councillors, Charlotte applied for a £300 grant from YouCan to help get the initiative off the ground. The first Shining Stars @Walkabouts disco took place in August 2017 with around 20 people enjoying a great time. A year later and that number has swelled to around 90… and I was extremely privileged to be invited to their first birthday party. The party was packed with people enjoying the music and everyone I spoke to was full of praise and admiration for Charlotte. As well as the fabulous Town Crier, we were treated to the presence of the Mayor of Lichfield, Councillor David Leytham and Mayoress, Jan Leytham-Gain, Miss Lichfield, Daz Hale of BBC WM and Rachel White of Signal One. As I chatted to people about Charlotte throughout the evening a word that kept coming up was ‘amazing.’ Laura Bruce and Hannah Norris of Mencap work closely with her and couldn’t sing her praises enough. [...]
When Christine Gough’s husband sadly passed away her world fell apart. She had been his carer for years, and alongside the emotional heartbreak she was feeling she had the additional worry of dealing with a massive change in her financial situation too. Here, neighbourhood coach Gemma Davis takes up the story. “Because of her tragic change in circumstances, Chris had to apply for Universal Credit – which in turn meant that she was expected to look for work. Grieving for her husband, and faced with the daunting prospect of finding a job after so long as a carer, Chris found herself really struggling to cope. “I spent time getting to know Chris and we started working together to ensure that she was well equipped to manage her home and finances by herself. By spending time with Chris, and always trying to be a positive influence on her, we started focusing on the things that made her happy. We gradually shifted the conversation away from the negatives in her life and started looking at what was good, what she enjoyed and what she was good at. “I soon realised that Chris loved cooking and baking and she told me how she made meals for her parents and daughter. Many a time I'd visit and there was a freshly baked cake on the side – and sometimes I was even lucky enough to have a little nibble. “Noticing how Chris's face would light up when she talked about cooking, and knowing that she was struggling financially, I suggested that she might consider starting her own little business. I explained about YouCan and how they offer grants of up to £300 to help get ideas off the ground. [...]
When Philip moved into St Alban’s Court in Wolverhampton, it didn’t take him long to start to think of how he could bring people together. We caught up with his recently to find out more, here Philip takes up the story… “I’ve always been creative and love making things, so my first thought was to set up some kind of craft group. I mentioned this to my neighbourhood coach who told me about YouCan and how they offer grants for community projects – so I got to work on completing the application form. Not long after I’d submitted it, I was told that we had been awarded £300 to help get my idea off the ground. “There were a few people who said that they would be interested in joining the group but who were lacking in confidence – convinced that they weren’t creative enough to get involved. With this in mind, I decided to start off with relatively simple crafts that helped them to build their confidence. “Most of the grant was spent on tools, wood and paint but with a little of the money from YouCan I bought some (fire-retardant) Christmas trees from Ebay. These were cut up to create 4ft – 6ft lengths which were then shaped into rings and decorations such as pine cones and lights were added to create festive garlands. The results were amazing…with the three neighbours who didn’t think they could do it, creating absolutely beautiful, handmade decorations. Which just goes to show – you never know what you’re capable of until you try. “With the encouragement of neighbourhood coaches Lewis and Philippa, the group is going from strength to strength. At the moment we’re working on [...]
Marlena from Lichfield has a love of making decorative furniture, crafts and toys for children’s bedrooms – and she’s pretty good at it too. After posting pictures of some her creations onto Facebook, interest started to build with a number of people beginning to show an interest in her work. She mentioned this to her Bromford skills coach who suggested that a YouCan grant could help her to build her business. With a little encouragement, Marlena completed the application form and the rest, as they say, is history. Marlena received a £300 grant that has enabled her to buy various materials and a new sewing machine that she’s using to make more fantastic creations. You can find her lovely work on Facebook at They call me mom If you have an idea that you think a £300 YouCan grant could help you get off the ground, you can apply here.
Anna approached YouCan for a grant to help make the most of the outside space and to bring her neighbours together. The flats where Anna and her neighbours live used to be a care home and, after seeing some old photos of it in its hay day, she had an idea to bring the building back to its former glory. She took the idea to her neighbourhood coach, Karen Price, who suggested that a grant from YouCan might be able to help. As soon as the funding came through, Anna and her neighbours got to work. With the bulk of the money being spent on decorative stones, the friends used their creativity to make the most of the things they had lying around. They upcycled a couple of chairs and added some wood from an old pallet to create a new garden bench, and an old filing cabinet was converted into a new planter. Anna said the grant was so helpful, and making the most of the outside space has really helped with her mental health. Just spending time pottering around outside, looking at the garden and tending to the hanging baskets makes her feel happy. Watch the video below to take a look at the results of the hard work that Anna and her neighbours have put in.
Running a children’s football team takes a lot of time and effort, and obviously money that is not always easy to come by. So when Phil Conner, joint manager of the under 13s Wrockwardine Wood football team, heard about YouCan he dived straight in to the application. The football club has been running for around 125 years and their under 13s team was set up in 2009, with Phil joining a year later. Wrockwardine Wood Football Club is home to wide selection of teams from the under 5s right up to adult men's and ladies teams and, like most community clubs, relies on the goodwill and enthusiasm of volunteers to keep it running. Phil applied for a You Can grant to buy some rain jackets for his under 13s team which now allow the team to train in all weather conditions. Phil said that the application process was really easy and it only took a few weeks for the grant to come through and now the jackets make everyone feel part of the team. The club are now in the process of applying for more funding. To find out what they’re looking to spend the money on take a look at the video below.
Esther Allen is volunteer director of Spark Centre in Burntwood who needed funding to start some services for families in the area. Esther explained that because of a lack of funding for things like breastfeeding services, new parents in the Burntwood area had no access to much needed help. She applied for a YouCan grant to help set up Midday Mayhem – a group to help young parents. This group is flourishing, with the money being spent on much needed resources including cooking ingredients and recipes to help everyone learn about healthy eating. Since the success of Midday Mayhem they have now applied for additional funding that has enabled them to launch other groups for families at the centre including Spark Bumps (for pregnant parents), Spark Babies (to help new parents avoid isolation once their babies are born) and funding has also helped them set up the Bistro breast feeding group. Esther says that the funding has really helped and a great thing to come out it is that a lot of the people who have used the facilities now volunteer, with some of them leading groups. The funding has enabled them to learn new skills and has paid for training in things like health and hygiene, safeguarding and breastfeeding peer support training. Thanks to YouCan these groups are now thriving and doing really well. Find out more by watching the video below:
David is the founder of the City of Lichfield Friends who organise events that allow the community to come together to enjoy free activities. David has applied for a YouCan grant that has allowed the City of Lichfield of Friends to bring people together for an Easter egg hunt, a lantern parade and a Christmas Fayre. The £300 that he was granted enabled around 60 families to enjoy a Christmas fayre, 80 people to build and get involved in the lantern parade and went towards ensuring the children involved in the Eater egg hunt all received free eggs at Easter. David says that without the grant, they just wouldn’t be able to put on these events meaning that many children and families would miss out. Watch the video to find out more:
Lavinia Smith is chair of the Fox’s resident group and we talked to her about how a YouCan grant has helped bring the community together. With complaints of anti-social behaviour with regards to some of the youngsters who spent time on the local park, the group decided to apply for funding in an attempt to bring some community cohesion back to Fox Hollow Close. An initial grant from Comic Relief went towards planting some fruit trees around the play area and community garden which the local children and teenagers were really happy to get involved with. This success gave Lavinia and the residents group an idea to create an organic garden; that’s where YouCan came in. Lavinia’s neighbourhood coach explained to her that YouCan offers grants of up to £300 for community based projects and shortly after Lavinia had completed the straightforward application form. She used the money to get the organic garden off the ground and needs the funding to keep replenishing the stock of seeds and plants. She says that without the grant, she wouldn’t be able to do this. The organic garden is proving extremely popular with all ages. The whole community have enjoyed planting the seeds and watching them grow. The summer has seen everyone pulling together with the teenagers getting involved in some of the heavy work, the younger children planting and watering with parents being really supportive of the project. Building the garden and watching the fruit and vegetables grow has really helped the whole community come together with good relationships being formed and the plan for the future is to put on some cooking sessions using the organic produce so everyone can enjoy the fruits of their labour [...]
A couple of years ago Amy applied for a YouCan grant for an upcycling project to help bring more people into Gatis Community Space. Her aim was to teach children aged 12 and over to refashion their clothes with an emphasis on ethical consumerism and sustainability. After carrying out some taster sessions to find out what people were really interested in, the upcycling workshop mutated into a craft workshop. Two years on, we decided to catch up with Amy to find out how things have progressed since receiving the grant. The community centre has become a hub of activity for the children and adults in the local area. Amy says: “Gatis Community Space is the only community centre in the area so it’s great to see lots of people getting involved in these activities and using the place again; and the YouCan grant has really helped us achieve this, cementing a strong community spirit.” She says Gatis Community Space is a place where the community comes together, to share their skills, knowledge and experiences and wants to introduce as many things to the centre as possible. Not only has the grant encouraged more people to go along to Gatis Community Space, it’s also helped Amy to build her confidence. Struggling with social anxiety when she started volunteering at the centre, she gradually started feeling better the more she worked with people, eventually leading to her being given the opportunity to become a volunteers’ manager at the centre. Amy said: “It really helped that Maria, who runs the centre, showed a great deal of belief in me. When she offered me the opportunity to become volunteers’ manager I wasn’t sure that I could do it. I’ve never done [...]