Shopper bus, playgroup and first responders among those celebrating cash grants from housing trust fund

The Catfield Shopper Bus is one of the groups to benefit from the grants. From left are, Christine C

The Catfield Shopper Bus is one of the groups to benefit from the grants. From left are, Christine Candlish of Victory Housing Trust; Matthew Wright of Wrights Coaches; May Miles, chair of the Catfield Shopper Bus; Barry Letten, treasurer of the Catfield Shopper Bus. Picture: ANDY NEWMAN - Credit: Archant

Nine community groups across north Norfolk are celebrating a combined £21,655 windfall, following the latest round of grants from the Victory Housing Community Fund.

A local shopper bus, a playgroup, a volunteer First Responders group and North Walsham's Funday are among the organisations sharing grants ranging from £500 to £5,000.

Christine Candlish, Victory's director of housing, said: 'As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Victory Housing Fund, we are delighted once more to be giving out grants to a range of excellent voluntary and community groups.

'These are organisations which contribute so much to our local communities, and it is important that we continue to support them.'

The organisations receiving support were:

-Roughton Under 5s Playgroup, which received £5,000 to provide an additional building to expand the space available to the playgroup

Home Start Norfolk, which received £4,958 to fund five hours per week of a family and volunteer co-ordinator in North Norfolk, as well as associated staff and volunteer travel expenses.

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-Stalham and Smallburgh First Responders, which received £3,000 to purchase a range of equipment to equip new volunteers and improve communications.

-Citizens Advice Mid Norfolk, which received £2,743 to support the cost of staff, volunteers and some promotional items for the Holt Advice and Support project.

-Norwich Diocesan Play Van, which received £2,000 to support operational costs of the playgroups in north Norfolk.

-Mundesley PCC, which received £1,500 to purchase tables and equipment.

-Happisburgh Coast Watch, which received £1,174 to improve disabled access to the lookout premises.

-Catfield Shopper Bus, which received £780 to support the running costs of the shopper bus service.

-North Walsham Funday, which received £500 to support the cost of staffing the North Walsham Funday weekend in June this year.

The latest round of grants were awarded by a panel of Victory residents, advised by the grants team at Norfolk Community Foundation, which administers the community fund.

Case Study: Catfield Shopper Bus

From small beginnings nearly 40 years ago, one rural community's initiative to tackle geographical isolation and loneliness has grown into a thriving lifeline for residents in a number of Norfolk villages.

The Catfield Shopper Bus was set up in 1979 by Catfield resident May Miles, to allow locals to have days out shopping despite the village's sporadic bus service.

Nearly four decades later, the initiative is still going strong, with around 30 people from Catfield, Hickling, Sea Palling, Lessingham and Stalham enjoying fortnightly shopping trips to Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and, in the summer, Sheringham.

Now operated by local coach company Wrights Coaches, the trips have become about much more than retail therapy – the group, many of whom live on their own, has become a real community, with around 30 people packing shopping trolleys and wheelchairs into the coach's large luggage space once every two weeks.

Mrs Miles, who is still the organising committee's chair, said: 'The Catfield Shopper Bus has become a real institution, and the trips are a real highlight for many of those who board the bus.'

'Despite the fact that we operate a more or less door-to-door service, we only charge £5 return, and the grant from the Victory Housing Community Fund will enable us to keep the wheels turning and the fare low for another year.'