Almost £5,000 of donated charity cash is up for grabs in the Dereham area – and community groups and worthy causes have been urged to stake their claim for a share.

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Dereham and District Round Table’s annual Santa Sleigh collection visited the streets of Mattishall, Shipdham, Scarning, Swanton Morley, Toftwood and Dereham during December in a tradition stretching back more than 30 years.

This year, a total of £4,832.92 was donated which will be distributed to local good causes in 2014. But, with no decisions made yet on who will benefit, community groups and organisations – and particularly individuals in need – have been encouraged to make an application in the New Year.

David Westgate, media officer for the Dereham and District Round Table, said: “Everything we collect is spent locally.

“There is no definitive criteria for who we give donations to, as long as it is local, and it improves the life of an individual or a group of people in the Dereham area.

“All requests will be discussed on their individual merits. We have to ask ourselves whether that request is for the benefit of Dereham, or for someone in the local community. We always try to encourage applications for specific requirements, for a piece of equipment or something tangible we can hang a label on and say: ‘That’s what the money went on’.”

“We have this amount available and we need to distribute it. That is what the community has given the money for, and it is better for that money to be working, rather than sitting in our bank account.”

Mr Westgate said the Round Table usually receives between 15 and 20 applications each year, but the group believes many other worthy cases may be in need who do not feel they can apply.

“Whether people are thinking there is always someone worse off than them and they are reluctant to come forward, I don’t know,” he said.

“We want to try and donate more money to individuals, but some people are very proud and they do not want to be seen to be asking for money. It is a difficult one to overcome, but that is the whole point of these collections – to put this money back to deserving places in our community.”

Mr Westgate said the Santa Sleigh collection total for 2013 was up by £279 on the previous year’s total. The Ladies’ Circle collected an additional £480.

He said he was impressed by the continued generosity of townspeople and villagers through tough economic times.

“I think for the last three years we have always felt that if we get anywhere near our previous year, then we would be happy, due to the financial situation that a lot of people find themselves in,” said Mr Westgate. “To get the same amount as last year, and then to break that total, is fantastic.

“But doing it for the money is not the be-all and end-all. We have always taken the view that one thing is to collect the money, but the other is to give the kids the chance to see Father Christmas.”

Among the many good causes which the Dereham Round Table’s charity fund has supported in recent years are: Mattishall First Responders, Dereham Otters, Royal British Legion, Fred Nicholson School, 2nd Dereham Scout Group, JDT Music, Wellspring Family Centre, Chips summer play schools, Shipdham Manor Care Home, Blake Barley Appeal, Mid Norfolk Railway Santa Special, Toftwood Infant School, Dereham Cancer Care, MS Society Dereham Branch, East Anglian Children’s Hospices, Autism Anglia, NNAB, 1st Mattishall Scout Group, Army Benevolent Fund, Dereham Alzheimer’s Society, Dereham Meeting Point, Elsing Cricket Club, Mattishall Primary School, Dereham Windmill, Dereham Foodbank and a number of local families to help with the cost of acquiring specialist equipment, toys and treatments.

For more information, contact chairman@derehamroundtable.org.uk or call 07762 438478.

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