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Giving back to our local community is an important part of what we do here at Prism. A handful of the Prism team recently attended the 2012 East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce awards held at Cranage Hall in Holmes Chapel and we are delighted to announce that Prism’s partnered charity Friends for Leisure received the prestigious “Charity of the Year” award at the event!
Prism and Friends for Leisure’s relationship stems back to 2008 when the organization branched out into the whole of the East Cheshire area. The organization provides activities and numerous social, enrichment and employment opportunities for children and young-people with disabilities.
Prism’s Robb Thaw got a chance to sit down with Gillian Jones, General Manager at Friends for Leisure for a brief Q &A –
“Gillian thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Friends for Leisure has been helping young-people all around East Cheshire for over 15 years now – Tell us a little bit about Friends for Leisure’s history with awards; I’m sure this isn’t the first one you’ve been nominated for?”
As Gillian stood up and approached a near-by cabinet is was made evident that this certainly wasn’t the first, but one of many awards –
“Our first award was the 1999 Silk F.M. Community award, followed by the Queens Jubilee award in 2003 for Voluntary services in the Community.”
“Friends for Leisure won a ’Celebrating Achievement with Children & Young People’ award from Cheshire County Council in 2006/2007. The following year, we were given a Special Award.
A spokesman for Cheshire County Council said, “Often those with disabilities don’t get the same opportunities to join or belong to clubs, make friends with other young people or take part in everyday leisure activities. Friends for Leisure stood out from all the other nominations and were chosen to receive a Special Award”.
“Finally we won a special award from Cheshire County Council in 2006/07 and 2007/08 celebrating achievement with Children and Young People”
“And I’m sure this type of recognition is always welcome for a charity, but how much of a step forward is winning such a prestigious award for this organization?”
“It does wonders for us, not only the confidence that we’re being supported and acknowledged but it’s most importantly the recognition of a lot of hard work which means that we are making a difference with what we’re trying to achieve”
“Many people might not know but we actually came quite close to closing down in 2008 due to several funding issues and difficult decisions had to be made back then.”
“But now with a strong board of trustees as well as new volunteers and support staff we’re stronger than ever and this serves as a really pleasant reminder that what we’re doing is really recognised.”
“So could you tell us a about Friends for Leisure’s presence in the East Cheshire area and what it is you aim to do?”
“The ethos of Friends for Leisure is to try and avoid putting on special one-off activities in favour of helping natural integration for young disabled children.”
“We want to allow young people to feel welcome wherever they go and put a great emphasis on helping young people’s entire family”
“Our focus is to create and maintain friendships as opposed to just caring for children, we help them build friendships and partake in social experiences so that they can naturally integrate and make friends in their local area.”
“And what are your aims for the future? It’s clear you’ve come a long way since your launched in 1995, I’m sure it must be onwards and upwards from here?”
“Well, we’re already well-established within East Cheshire and our activities take us all over the Borough.”
“We’ve always tried to offer a diverse range of services and events but this has its own challenges – One that we have been facing for some time now is trying not to just focus on the main 3 towns of Crewe, Congleton and Macclesfield in order to make things as easy as possible for all of the rural communities. We’d like to further diversify our activities and services but at the same time we promise to stick to our rule that no parent should ever have to travel for longer than 20 minutes.”
“Prism and Friends for Leisure have been working together since 2008, how has your relationship with Prism helped you over the years? Do you have any highlights that come to mind?”
“I think most importantly the faith and positive attitude that Prism show towards us is the most important part. When I first spoke to Gary (David-Smith, Prism Director) he showed so much enthusiasm towards aiding the cause, but the difference with Prism is that the aid wasn’t in the form of a one-off fund-raiser or a financial proposition, it was a service that helped the entire organization become more professional and is in a much more stable state.”
“It’s important that Friends for Leisure is seen as a capable organization, and Prism contributes that to us.”
“A specific highlight is hard to pick out though…”
“If I had to pick one I would say the move into the Congleton office, I was dreading the day and all of the organization and complications, but once Prism got involved everything was taken care of – Cabling, Networking, moving all the PC’s, I didn’t have a single worry about technology or IT which is such an important part of everything we do.”
“And is there any message you’d like to pass on to the people that helped you win this award”
“It’s hard to put into words what it means but thank you so much for having faith in us and we hope by continuing on with what we do that we can reward such faith.”