Community Champions

Celebrating charity work and good deeds in the Wiltshire and Swindon business community.

Insolvency team secures £120,000 for charities supporting Swindon’s children

Written by Peter Davison.

Olwen Kelly and Caroline Smith of Womens Aid, Paul McConnell and Steve Elliott of MHA Monahans, Stephanie Hathaway and Liz Angus of KoalasChartered accountants MHA Monahans have handed over £120,000 of surplus funds to two Swindon causes following completion of the official closure of the West Swindon Family Centre.

West Swindon Family Centre was forced to close in April 2017 due to rising costs and funding cuts.

Insolvency partner Steve Elliott was appointed by the charity trustees, to deal with the closure by way of solvent liquidation. As part of the process, Steve and his team worked with the trustees to wind up the charity formally: liaising with and paying the centre’s remaining creditors; renegotiating the lease on the playgroup to a new provider; and selling the centre’s premises.

The resulting surplus funds have now been donated to two other local charities, as nominated by the centre’s former trustees – Swindon Women’s Aid and Koalas Swindon Opportunity Group.

The two charities each received £60,000 which will be put towards funding services that will directly improve the lives of Swindon’s vulnerable and disabled children.

Koalas Swindon Opportunity Group provides pre-school education for children under 5 years old who have a range of special educational needs or disabilities, as well as support and advice for their families.

Koalas currently supports up to 48 children every week who have additional needs as a result of a range of conditions including Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, visual or hearing impairment, global development delay or chromosome deletion.

The service currently has a waiting list of families needing support.

Swindon Women’s Aid will be allocating their funds to their children and young people project which provides direct support to children in their refuge escaping domestic violence and abuse, as well as working with them in the community and providing workshops on healthy relationships in schools.

Last year Swindon Women’s Aid worked with 178 children and young people in the refuge, as well as 909 families in Swindon and reached over 600 young people through schools.

Steve explained: “West Swindon Family Centre found themselves in the position where although they held a number of assets, due to funding cuts they could not afford to continue operating.

"Through the solvent liquidation process we were able to release these assets and pass on the remaining funds to local charities with similar aims, as nominated by the trustees.

“We’re very pleased to be able to pass on these funds and continue the incredible support and help that both Women’s Aid and Koalas provide to our local community.

“Small charities everywhere are under tremendous funding pressure and the brave, and timely, decisions taken by the trustees of the West Swindon Family Centre have released this surplus to be put to good use in continuing to help children and families in Swindon.”

Stephanie Hathaway, manager of Koalas, added: “We at Koalas are saddened at the loss of West Swindon Family Centre and recognise the impact that this has had on the mutual families supported.

"We are so very grateful to them for sharing these funds with us at a time when funding for valuable services can no longer be assured. It will go a long way to ensure Koalas is able to continue the work we do, supporting the families across Swindon whose children have Special Educational Needs and disabilities.”

Olwen Kelly, the director of Swindon Women’s Aid said she was extremely grateful to receive this generous donation. “The impact on children who live in domestically abusive homes can be significant, yet there is lack of funding to support these children to recover from their traumatic experiences.

"Swindon Women’s Aid relies solely on fundraising and donations to be able to provide this vital support and this kind donation will enable us to continue this important work.”

Financial advisers find a home for charity through mortgages

Written by Peter Davison.

Andy Carter and Sarah Watch with Kathryn FordHighworth-based financial planning firm Dandelion Financial is lending its support to a local charity by linking donations to mortgages.

Every time the team at Dandelion arrange a mortgage or remortgage for a client, they make a £25 donation from their fee to Christians Against Poverty – CAP - which has a branch near their High Street offices and provides free, professional debt advice to local people.

CAP is Dandelion’s charity of the year throughout the current financial year and so far £400 has been raised through donations.

Dandelion Directors Andy Carter and Sarah Watch, both independent financial advisers, said they wanted to support a local charity and CAP fitted the bill.

“We feel it’s important to support local people and charities, and have previously sponsored Coleshill Junior Football Club and local individuals taking part in charitable events, including the London Marathon and London to Paris cycle ride,” said Sarah, who recently qualified as an equity release adviser.

“We wanted to support the worthwhile advice the CAP team continue to provide local residents, because we strongly believe that financial advice is for everybody.”

Kathryn Ford of CAP said: “As a charity we rely on donations and fundraising both nationally and locally.

"Our service keeps families together, relieves stress, restores health, keeps families in their homes, provides friendship and can provide connection to the community.”

Environmental grant will held river flourish

Written by Peter Davison.

Peter Andrew, group director of Hills Quarry Products, with The Cotswold Water Park Trust bio-diversity and estates teamEnvironmental enhancements at two key sites in the Cotswold Water Park will be made possible thanks to a £70,000 grant to the Cotswold Water Park Trust.

The grant was made by The Hills Group through the Landfill Communities Fund, with additional funding from Environment Agency.

The two year scheme will see shade reduction, channel enhancement and vegetation management take place on Cerney Wick Brook – a tributary of the River Thames – at Cleveland Lakes and Shorncote Reedbeds.

The watercourse suffers from dense over-shading, artificial straightening and a general lack of channel diversity. The Trust hopes the project will attract more diverse wildlife – including kingfishers, water voles, and otters – to the river.

IT Institute staff GoTo charity to hand over cheque

Written by Peter Davison.

Staff at Swindon-based BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, Escaped to a community garden to learn about Branches, Roots, and Seeds of a different kind.

The team held a bake sale on behalf of TWIGS, the Swindon-based charity that provides gardening therapy to people suffering from mental illnesses, raising £233.

BCS Finance Director Rob Deri presented TWIGS Service Manager Alan Holland with a giant cheque, before staff were given a tour of the two-and-a-half acre grounds at Cheney Manor.

They saw the Physic Garden, where herbs traditionally used to treat anxiety or aid sleep are grown, and the Japanese Garden, the first garden planted by the charity 20 years ago.

Although Swindon Borough Council pays 45% of the charity’s project costs, funding has been cut by 30% over three years, and donations from local businesses like BCS are vital to keep the garden running.

Local businesses can also help by providing staff on away-days to help with weeding and general maintenance.

“We’re extremely grateful to BCS,” said Alan. “Donations like this help us to buy the tools and materials that fuel our activities. Having good resources makes the job easier.”

The charity has just six members of staff and a group of around 30 volunteers – some of whom have been helped by TWIGS in the past – to support between 80 and 100 service users.

Currently, 91 people with mental health issues who have been referred by GPs or Job Centres to TWIGS, are supported by the charity.

Individuals or businesses who would like to support TWIGS should visit


Swindon lawyers find the ‘will’ to help charity

Written by Peter Davison.

Alison GriffithsLawyers at Swindon professional services firm Optimum are backing a local charity this month by waiving their will writing fee and asking for donations instead.

The wills and probate team at Optimum, headed by solicitor Alison Griffiths, are supporting Make a Will Month, being run by Wroughton’s Prospect Hospice throughout September.

A number of other Swindon and Marlborough law firms are also participating, all offering to write or amend a will free of charge in return for a donation to Prospect.

“We’re delighted to help support Prospect’s Make a Will Month, which they have been running for a several years and which is an excellent way of raising money,” said Alison.

“It also encourages people who don’t have a will to draw one up, or if they’ve not reviewed their wills for some time, to amend them.”

Alison added that drawing up a will was something everybody should do.

“If someone dies without having made a will, it can cause all sorts of problems for family and loved ones, and will delay the length of time until the person’s estate is distributed.

"It is a relatively small investment to make for peace of mind for the family and now is the perfect time to make a will, as the Prospect will also benefit.”

To contact Alison and the wills and probate team at Optimum, call 01793 538 198 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

From miles per gallon to pounds per mile – motor dealer helps charity walkers hit fundraising target

Written by Peter Davison.

Dominic Threlfall of Pebley Beach and Ann Giles from Swindon CarersA charity that supports around 4,000 unpaid carers in Swindon has raised more than £2,500 from a sponsored walk, after receiving the backing of motor dealer Pebley Beach.

Dominic Threlfall, managing director of the Suzuki and Hyundai franchise, pledged to match every pound raised by Swindon Carers Centre’s Walk A Mile In My Shoes sponsored walk up to £1,000.

Spurred on by the company's support, participants in the Walk A Mile In My Shoes raised £1,573 in sponsorship and donations. With Pebley's £1,000, the total stands at £2,573.

Schools development officer Ann Giles, visited the Pebley Beach dealership in Paddington Drive, Swindon to pick up a giant cheque. “The support of Pebley Beach means so much to us," she said.

The money will be used to fund breaks and activities for some of the 4,000 unpaid carers supported by the charity, whose ages range from between five and 96.

For the younger carers, of whom there are around 900, it might mean a trip to the beach. For older carers it could be a trip to Bath, or a Christmas party.

According to a recent survey of its registered carers by the charity, 100 percent reported that attending groups provided them with a break, and 98 percent made new friends.

Dom said: “Swindon’s unpaid carers, young and old, do a fantastic job in supporting relatives who could not cope without them.

"We’re proud to be supporting Swindon Carers Walk A Mile In My Shoes events for a second year.”

For more information about the work of Swindon Carers Centre visit


Entrepreneur to run half marathon in memory of father

Written by Peter Davison.

John WilliamsThe co-founder of a Chippenham-based heating and plumbing company has been pounding the streets over the summer training for the the town's half marathon in memory of his father.

Steve Williams, well known and loved in the town, passed away suddenly in December 2017 due to heart failure at the age of 75.

John Williams, of John Williams Heating Services, said: “Losing my dad so suddenly and so unexpectedly was devastating for me, my mum, my wife, my children – everyone in our family. Anyone who has lost someone suddenly will know how your life is blown apart by such a loss. As time has gone by I’ve felt that doing something in his memory is a positive acknowledgement of the love we all have for him.”

With the support of his wife Debbie, mum Pauline and his daughters Georgina and Katie, John pledged to raise at least £500 for the British Heart Foundation by taking part in the event, which takes place this Sunday (September 9). He’s already reached more than £1,000.

Not only is John taking part in the half marathon – which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year – his company is also one of the event’s three main sponsors.

This year though John is on a more personal mission to honour his father’s life.

“Cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is a huge issue in our society causing more than a quarter of all UK deaths (26 per cent). One person dies every three minutes with CVD,” John said.

“It’s easy to spout figures like this – however it hurts deeply when your own loved one is one of those people behind the statistics. Just £24 pays for two hours’ research into the causes of heart disease.

"The British Heart Foundation has worked tirelessly to reduce these big numbers (and there has been a large reduction) yet more research and education is needed to support early diagnosis and help people live with healthy hearts.”

For anyone who wishes to make a donation, John's JustGiving page is at

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