The woman behind a pioneering project at Bottesford which helps lonely and isolated people and those with mobility problems interact with others is celebrating after being awarded nearly £250,000 to extend it across the UK.
Lyndsey Young is astonished by the impact of The Friendly Bench - a kerbside community garden with benches on Granby Drive - which has already been visited by hundreds of locals since it was opened 17 months ago.
It was heralded by former Prime Minister, Theresa May, who last month awarded Lyndsey a prestigious Points of Light honour, as a ground-breaking way of bringing communities closer together and tackling the issue of loneliness in rural areas.
And the National Lottery has now awarded the scheme £242,713 to create similar Friendly Bench projects in 10 other areas of the country.
Lyndsey told the Melton Times: “I am absolutely thrilled to receive this funding although I never expected to get a quarter of a million pounds.
“Since we opened our bench at Bottesford we’ve had 137 enquiries from community groups, councillors and MPs wanting to see if it could help their communities in the same way.
“We have had enquiries from as far away as Inverness, Newquay, Chatham and Northern Ireland showing interest in a Friendly Bench and now this money will enable us to help some of them.”
Her organisation, The Friendly Bench CIC, will now identify worthy applicants wishing to benefit from the funding to help thousands of other people in the UK.
The Bottesford project has so far provided regular volunteering opportunities for over 20 people and engaged more than 500 attendees at one or more of the monthly volunteer-led activities and events there.
Lynsdey was inspired to launch The Friendly Bench, which was officially opened early last year by Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan, after experiencing loneliness herself while working as a freelancer after the birth of her son.
She added: “I had a gut feeling it would work because of the simplicity of the idea.
“Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to bring more people together and help them build stronger, more connected, healthier communities.
“This is important because it helps people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds develop positive relationships and trust with each other, have a sense of belonging, identity and acceptance and create their own supportive circles of friends and peers.”
Any community group interested in finding out about the project can visit, www.thefriendlybench.co.uk or email email@example.com and quoting the reference ‘TNL Community Fund enquiry’.