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Funding boost helps bring community centre back into use

Thanks to a boost in funding, the Merton Lodge community centre in South Benwell estate has reopened its doors to the community.

Thanks to £25,000 in funding from housing association Karbon Homes, local community interest company NE14 Productions has taken over the lease of the centre and is running a variety of new services and activities.

Bessie Williams, Founder and Company Director of NE14 Productions, said: “I love being in the community and I love people caring about where they live. Having a place where people can engage with one another and where they feel safe and supported, is key to any thriving community.

When Karbon approached me about taking over the running of Merton Lodge I jumped at the opportunity. I’m from Benwell originally, the area is very close to my heart, and I wanted to play my part in supporting this community and making it a great place to live.”

The funding for the reopening came through Karbon’s Unlocking Social Value programme, which matches the social value commitments of Karbon’s contractors and suppliers with community projects across the region.

Paul Fiddaman, Chief Executive at Karbon Homes, said: “We’re proud to see Merton Lodge being brought back into use for the benefit of the community and with funding from our Unlocking Social Value programme, paired with support from our community investment team, Bessie and the team at NE14 Productions have really hit the ground running, putting some fantastic activities on for all ages.

It is really important to us that we invest in communities, going far beyond what people might normally expect from a landlord. It’s great to be able to support projects like this that make such a difference to communities and that give the people that live there a chance and a platform to build from.”

Alongside the £25,000, through its partnership with The Bread and Butter Thing, Karbon has also helped set up Merton Lodge as a mobile food club, giving local residents the opportunity to sign up and gain access to an average of £35 worth of items, including fresh fruit and veg, fridge favourites and cupboard staples, for £8.50 a week.

The funding for Karbon’s Unlocking Social Value programme comes from North East based procurement consultancy Prosper’s Annual Social Value Dividend Fund, established to support the communities its landlord partners serve.

Rod Brasington, Chief Executive at Prosper, said: “We’re proud to be able to work with Karbon Homes to support this excellent community project which is bringing residents together to harness the potential of the Merton Court area”.

Karbon’s dividend is issued annually and is based on its procurement spend placed through Prosper, enhanced by the addition of a proportion of any surplus Prosper generates.

Paul added: “One of our key aims as an organisation is to help shape, strong sustainable places for our communities, and the social value commitments of our contractors and suppliers play an important role in elevating the support we’re able to provide.

We’re proud to work with so many contractors and suppliers who share our values and want to help make a difference to the communities they work in and our relationship with Prosper has been key in enabling us to unlock the social value we have.”

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