A new campaign celebrating the efforts of the region’s community organisations and charities has been launched by the East of England Co-op and Archant. Telling the stories of individuals dedicating their time and energy to confront the profound challenges we face as a society, #EastTogether will shine a spotlight on local good causes that have provided essential social benefits in the time of Covid-19.

#EastTogether Launch (1)

Founded on principles of fairness and equality, the East of England Co-op is the largest independent retailer in the region. Each year it invests a portion of its profit to support communities across its trading area, but this year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic resources were used to set up its Community Cares Fund.

Joint chief executive Niall O'Keeffe said: “The Community Cares Fund was created to support community groups and charities so that they can adapt, enhance and continue to provide much-needed services in innovative ways.”

The £230,000 donated by the East of England Co-op was topped up with donations from its members, taking the fund to over £360,000. Grants are awarded to groups supporting four key areas of social importance: young people’s mental health, supporting an ageing population, reducing food waste and eliminating food poverty. These issues were already entrenched in our society, but have been complicated and exacerbated by Covid-19.

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Nikki Insley, head of membership, community and insight, said: “The fact that we are a membership organisation owned by the people who shop with us gives us a completely different perspective to other businesses. We make commercial decisions, but doing the right thing is our guiding principle. It’s in our DNA.

“Over the past eight months, we have all witnessed how our communities have responded. We’ve seen the absolute best of people and #EastTogether is an opportunity for us to highlight the fantastic efforts happening on our doorstep. Telling stories from those communities is vital.”

So far, the East of England Co-op has donated more than £285,000 to local good causes, including giving £82,000 to East Anglian foodbanks. This was shared among 22 Trussell Trust and independent foodbanks across the region, with Waveney Foodbank granted £10,000 in order to ensure its survival. Suffolk Libraries received £2,500 to support its Lifeline service making calls to older and vulnerable people, while £18,000 was pledged to Age UK to help provide food and support.

The company also donated £45,000 to the Community Foundations for Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, supporting children and young people impacted by domestic abuse and violence, with £57,000 for organisations supporting unpaid carers recently announced.

These examples are just a handful of the powerful interventions the East of England Co-op is making – interventions that Nikki hopes will have a positive effect on communities.

“The projects we are supporting are all different but they are all about hyperlocal needs,” Nikki says. “We work with local partners who understand these issues. They are the experts.

“We provide them with enough money to make a difference, so that they can be innovative in their approach to problem-solving. We act as an enabler, empowering them and kickstarting a cascade of opportunity.

“Teaming up with Archant for #EastTogether was a natural fit to achieve those ends. We are both large, independent organisations in the East of England with a long-standing commitment to our communities.”

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Niall concludes: “It is so important for the whole community to support these groups and to say ‘thank you’. The #EastTogether campaign is a chance to come together and amplify the great things going on in our region, setting a brilliant example to inspire others to help.”

Follow the #EastTogether campaign on social media @EofECoop. For more information visit www.eastofengland.coop/easttogether