Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

[caption id="attachment_7529" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Christmas Jumper Day at Bertrams Bertrams have pulled out the stops! Click on the pic to enlarge if needed[/caption]

What better way to finish Community Link-Up for 2013 with our third and final look at festive jumpers!

Bertrams have sent us a fine selection of knitwear from the day, together with the news they raised a fantastic £219.38 in the process :)

Which means the overall total raised for Save the Children now stands at £363.76.

All that remains is to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

Community Link-Up will return on January 6th 2014.

Monday, 23 December 2013

It's Secret Santa... With a Twist!

[caption id="attachment_7518" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Christmas presents by the tree ready to take to the refuge Christmas presents by the tree ready to take to the refuge[/caption]

Lisa Lynn added a fresh twist to the IT department's Secret Santa at Rowan House last week, by arranging for everyone to buy presents for children at Swindon Women’s Aid.

[caption id="attachment_7519" align="alignright" width="191"]Lisa with the presents Lisa with the presents[/caption]

“I thought that instead of doing Secret Santa for ourselves and getting something that we don’t really need, we could buy something for a charity that caters for people who won’t be spending Christmas with family. The Women’s Refuge is a great idea, as many of the women here have children that do not receive much – if anything – on Christmas Day.”

She and her generous colleagues presented gifts to a total of 28 children aged between 1 and 18 on Thursday. Lisa even got in touch with the refuge beforehand to find out the gender and age of the children staying there, so every child received a gift that was appropriate for them.

Lisa put a lot of thought into how it would work and put together a spreadsheet of everyone taking part, plus the ages and gender of the children who would get a present. You can see from the pictures she gathered masses of them!

Lynsey Bull added: 

"...it seems the twist to secret Santa has gone down a treat and everyone is really happy about doing it."

Friday, 20 December 2013

Bob has a 'Bit of a Do'

[caption id="attachment_7501" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Beat Beat presenting cheques Bob Beat giving the representatives their cheques. From left to right we have Caedmon Primary School, Cleveland Hall Community Centre and Whickham Juniors Football Club[/caption]

Newcastle's Carol Inglis has sent us this heart warming story...

Bob Beat, a Supervisor in Customer Service, has managed to do even more with his ‘Spare Time’.  He organised ‘ A Bit of a Do’ for 3 different local organisations that he is involved with - Whickham Juniors Football Club, Cleveland Hall Community Centre and Caedmon Primary School.  The total  for the night was £400 which was divided between the 3 organisations.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmas Jumper Day... Take 2

[caption id="attachment_7472" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Instore show off their festive jumpers Another fine festive selection as modelled by James Bullen, Rachel Underhill and Sophie Morris[/caption]

Instore took the opportunity to show off their Christmas jumpers last week as part of their staff raffle and buffet festivities.

Meanwhile those too shy to go on camera at Rowan House, raised a further £69.38 for Save the Children.

Thus the total raised for Christmas Jumper Day now stands at £144.38 :)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Houtschild's Festive Spirit

Houtschild's Annemarie Fennema reminds us that a simple action with the smallest of donations can amount to something very large indeed when everyone's contribution is added together. This is a super story with which to celebrate both the spirit of the season and also our second contribution from our international colleagues in Holland :)

A small article in our local newspaper was the start of a very good plan.

The article described an initiative by one of the Dutch Lions clubs. Back in 2012 they began collecting coupons from Douwe Egberts coffee and exchanging them for coffee to distribute among the local food banks. This year they did so again and the number of coupons they received was overwhelming. Coupon clipping is a typical Dutch habit.

In our office we drink lots of Douwe Egberts tea and coffee but we do not really know what to do with the coupons. We had loads of them just lying around, and feeling an early Christmas spirit coming on, we decided to donate the coupons to this good cause. 

In just two weeks we came up with 23,844 points, which amounts to some 50 packs of coffee.

Douwe egberts 1

On December 10th, before we sent them our parcel, the Lions’ total score was almost 7 million points. How much coffee would that be? And what would that look like in terms of coupons?

On Saturday, after the first big count, the score was well over 11 million points!*
That sure feels good!

Douwe Egberts picture 2The count goes on for another fortnight...

What a fantastic idea Annemarie and thank you! I think this is something to keep in mind for 2014 with e.g. the various coupons given away by supermarkets from time to time here in the UK. 

* = which makes the total donated in excess of 23,000 packs by my reckoning - that's an awful lot of coffee - Ed

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Jumper Day... Take 1

[caption id="attachment_7464" align="aligncenter" width="640"]A selection of festive jumpers at Wednesbury A fine selection of festive knitwear from Wednesbury - click on the pic to enlarge[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7480" align="alignright" width="300"]Christmas jumper NAC photo NAC also showing a good turnout[/caption]

Congratulations to the Customer Services team at Wednesbury, you have the honour of sending the first pictures for Christmas Jumper Day 2013 :)

And what a fine turnout it was, netting contributions of £38.

NAC weren't to be outdone, with their selection raising £37.

Did your location take part in Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day? We have space on the blog this week for your pics!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Michael Nets A Nifty Silver

Breaking news re the European Championships from the British Swimming Twitter feed late yesterday afternoon:

A new British record in this event and the 100m breaststroke earlier in the championships (in 57.89 seconds, though sadly no medal) marks a notable return to form after Michael's recent heart scare :)

Note that this is a short course (25 metre pool) championship and Michael beat his Bath team-mate Andrew Willis, who finished in the 4th place heartbreaker (albeit in a new English record).

NB British Swimming's website has a neat video of Michael discussing this week's Duel in the Pool. Look out for news of the broadcast times on Community Link-Up later this week.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sending Aid to the Philippines

[caption id="attachment_7430" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Typhoon relief at Borehamwood Leticia Catores with the donations collected from staff & contractors for the Philippines[/caption]

The pictures of the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines have touched the hearts of many people in the UK, who have dug deep and given generously to the relief appeal. Smiths News was no exception, as Chris Foord reports...

With 10%+ of Borehamwood staff coming from the Philippines and all of them considered friends and/or colleagues we decided to try and pull together and gather some well needed supplies to send over, with help from Leticia Catores and Chris Foord in organising and spreading the word. From all that was donated we have managed to get around 8 black bin bags of clothing/goods from Smiths News staff & contractors.

This will now be shipped over to the Philippines to aid as many people as it can, in the wake of the typhoon.

Many thanks to all that helped and donated and our thoughts go out to all that were affected, or are family and friends.

NB The Disasters Emergency Committee's website shows what's happening with the relief aid going out to the Philippines. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Announcing the Community Link-Up Awards 2013

Community Link Up Awards Banner

It's time to celebrate!

Community Link-Up has been a great success this year because of your hard work, so today sees the launch of the Community Link-Up Awards to say "thank you". 2013 saw the broadening of our community initiative into three key strands, so it's appropriate that the Awards have also changed to reflect this.

CLU Awards logoThis year's categories are:

Fundraising Awards

  • Fundraiser of the Year (team)

  • Fundraiser of the Year (individual)

  • Most Inspirational Individual

Volunteering Awards

  • Volunteer of the Year (team)

  • Volunteer of the Year (individual)

Link-Up Awards

  • Best Link-Up Event

  • Best Link-Up Location

You'll find all the details of this years Awards including their nomination criteria in the Awards Brochure (NB this is a pdf download).  You can also download the Nomination Form.

The closing date for Award nominations is Friday 17th January 2014.

Nomination forms can be sent to Laura Morris at any time up to the closing date via email.

Or you can post them to: Laura Morris, Group Communications Executive, Rowan House, Cherry Orchard North, Kembrey Park, Swindon, SN2 8UH.

Good luck and happy nominating!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Consortium go Dotty for Children in Need

Consortium Children in Need 2013

PJs, onesies and all kinds of dotted wear, not to mention a celebrity visit from Mr Blobby, meant a fun time was had by all at both The Consortium's Trowbridge and Shrewsbury sites recently. All in the name of Children in Need :)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stockport in the Community

[caption id="attachment_7392" align="aligncenter" width="640"]All spick and span for the Christmas Fair - a job well done All spick and span for the Christmas Fair - a job well done[/caption]

'Tis the season of goodwill and Stockport House are showing us the way today with their tale of how they helped their local community recently. Keith Foster has more...

As part of our involvement within the local community in the Brinnington area of Stockport, a number of our team at Smiths News in Stockport volunteered to help to prepare the Church Hall at St Lukes Church in time for the upcoming Christmas Fair.

The Church Hall was in need of some serious tlc and our team spent time discussing and agreeing exactly what support the representatives of the Church required.

Once this was agreed our team swung into action and prepared and then painted the interior of the Hall and made it look “fresher than it had ever been”. To be honest the most time-consuming part of this whole project was deciding on what colour paint was required!!

Stockport in the community inside photoThe ladies at the Church Hall were delighted with our efforts as the painting work was completed on the day before the Christmas Fair and they were excited about showing off their improvements to the broader Community.

Smiths News also donated a number of raffle prizes and members of the Smiths News team baked cakes to sell at the fair on the day.

It was really nice to instigate this project within the local community and “give something back” as we employ a large amount of people from within this area. Not only did the Hall look much better, but the people who use this facility (which is many different Groups throughout the whole of the Community) really appreciated what we had done. However one of the most important things was that we all had some “fun along the way” together, and hopefully this is the beginning of a relationship that we can look to develop within the community in the future.

Thad Barker (Senior Neighbourhood Management Officer for Stockport Council) said: “On behalf of Stockport Council and the local Community we are really grateful for the support that Smiths News in Stockport has given to us. This is the first time that anybody has done anything like this for us, and for that we all say a really big thank you. It is fair to say that your help and support has brightened up not only the Church Hall but the whole feel of the place and the ladies down there are really thrilled.”

What a fantastic effort Keith, the results of which look set to brighten up events in Brinnington for many months to come. We look forward to hearing how this project develops with your local community and sharing it via Community Link-Up. :)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sam's Off to MoonWalk

[caption id="attachment_7374" align="alignright" width="230"]Photo of Sam pre-moonwalk Sam - pre-MoonWalk[/caption]

We have our first MoonWalker!

Sam Lucas, a graduate trainee at Rowan House is putting her best feet forward next May to take part in this colourful and demanding event. Now it's over to Sam to tell you about the walk and why she has decided to take part...

On Saturday May 10th 2014 I will be taking part in the London Moonwalk to raise vital funds for Breast Cancer related charities. This is a 26.2mile power walk through the streets of London, with all participants wearing brightly decorated bras to show their support for the cause.

The MoonWalk is in its 13th year and has so far raised over £72million which has funded large scale research projects to help fight cancer, supported integrated care provision for cancer patients, helped contribute to new hospital operating facilities and so much more.

WalkTheWalk [who organise the MoonWalk - Ed] is a grant making charity and the funds raised are donated to charities, hospitals and research projects all over the UK including: The Christie in Manchester, FACT Cancer Support in the North East, Helen Rollason Cancer Charity in the South East, Maggie's Centres in Scotland and many more.

I chose to take part in the MoonWalk for a number of reasons: 

  1. To join thousands of others in raising money for such an important cause.

  2. As a personal challenge - I don't think my little legs will know what's hit them after 8 hours of power walking (I'm sure I must be taking twice as many steps as everyone else!!)

  3. Walking around London in a nicely decorated bra seemed like a pretty good way to spend a Saturday evening!

I am not the most ‘athletically minded’ and have never done an event of this nature so if anyone has any words of wisdom to share in preparation for some long walks ahead – please send them my way!

I have set myself a target of raising £500, so every donation will be greatly appreciated.

If you would like to make a donation, please click on the link to my donation site.

Thank you very much for your support. Photo to follow upon completion!

Good luck Sam and I'm sure the distance walkers we've featured here on Community Link-Up will have plenty hints and tips to help you on your way. I hope this post garners plenty of donations for you to take you through your paces during training!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Bring Out Your Festive Jumpers!

Christmas snowman jumperSave the date! December 13th is Christmas Jumper Day!

Ron Weasley's mum was famous for her knitted Christmas jumpers in the Harry Potter books; maybe someone in your family has the same claim to fame? If so, it's time to search those cupboards and bring out your festive jumper stash!

Or perhaps you preferred Sarah Lund's stylish jumpers in The Killing and have one of your own like this one. No problem, that counts too!

It's all a bit of fun to raise some festive cash for Save the Children.

Who can take part?

NB This is a general blog post available to everyone in Smiths News,  so do check whether your location is taking part first. If it is, and you don't have any customer-facing meetings planned, then we're asking for a donation of £1 to take part.

OK, I'm in, but I don't have a Christmas jumper :(

That's no problem, you could buy, borrow or decorate one!

Mini jumpers by Debbie BlissSweater style knows no limits, so why not get creative and decorate your own glitzy knitwear with tinsel, stars, baubles and snowflakes?

Deramores are Save the Children's partner wool supplier* - they also have plenty of freebie knitted and crochet decoration ideas to make your jumper festive. So far there are patterns for puddings, a holly garland, robins, stockings, bears and snowflakes with more to come.

The Save the Children website also has a downloadable mini jumper pattern created by Debbie Bliss, which you could add to your clothing as your cheeky contribution to the day!

This is a fun idea suitable for lots of locations to join in. Don't forget to send us your photos!

Or make your own

A festive jumper isn't just for Christmas Jumper Day! If you're looking for a longer term project and like the look of the snowman sweater featured at the top of this post, then you'll also find a link to the downloadable pattern on the Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day website.

The Deramores website has a selection of other festive designs for an alternative to the snowman jumper e.g. snowflakes.

* = Throughout November Deramores are also donating 50p to Save the Children where any order includes one ball of sirdar wool.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A Week For Children in Need

[caption id="attachment_7346" align="alignleft" width="300"]Children In Need Feel the object NAC and BLS staff had their own version of a "bush tucker trial" with the Feel the Object competition[/caption]

For Children In Need, the NAC held a number of activities which raised almost £180.00 for the charity. As usual, BLS also took part in the fun!

Tina Cronin, Jackie Atkinson, Andrea Briggs, Vicky Rhodes put their thinking caps on to devise a whole week of activities from 11th to 15th November. Jackie reports:

"Tina organised a name the bear competition which raised £60, a great start.

As well as a fun quiz on Friday afternoon, Jackie organised a guess the toddler photo competition which raised some laughs. It’s amazing how you can see features in photographs that you can recognise in people 50 years later.

Andrea had great fun in putting together a feel the objects competition for staff to take part in on Friday afternoon. All the objects were either food or from the kitchen, including things like coconut, tomatoes, radishes and Weetabix. It was very amusing to watch the horror on people’s faces as they put their hands into the unknown boxes and the relief when they realised the contents weren’t alive.

As always we had a few food activities as well, Mo Uddin brought us some of his home-made curries and starters to buy for lunch whilst Mumtaz Sultan kindly brought in some of her home baking for us to sample as well. Both were very much appreciated by the always hungry NAC staff and of course helped towards our overall fundraising total as well."

Fantastic news, thanks Jackie. That makes a combined total (along with Monday's report) of £549.37.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

All the Fun of Children in Need

OK, so we've had the build-up to last week's Children in Need, so how did everyone get on?

First up is Rowan House...

[caption id="attachment_7333" align="alignleft" width="300"]Children in Need Rowan House trolley photo l-r: Sam Marlow, Kayla Watts (donning Pudsey ears!), Laura Morris, Jennifer Taylor, Jade Cholod[/caption]

Laura Morris said:

"We had a great selection of homemade sweets, cakes, cookies and truffles on offer - we did a trolley dash around both floors of the office so people didn't even need to get out of their seats :)"

Just like their trolley, the total raised is a bit of a moveable feast. The latest update we have is £168.62!

Next, we have the first of two reports hailing from Borehamwood: NNSC to be precise for the first...


...they had a pyjama day which was one of this year's fun activities suggested for all Children in Need participants.

I see we have an "elephant in the room" to rival the Tigger onesie Richard Osman was wearing on Friday's edition of Pointless!

The total raised was a nifty £80.

... and last but not least Kelly Carey from Smiths News Borehamwood completes our round-up...

Children in Need Borehamwood collage

... "our staff made Poppadums, Samosas, Onion Bhajis, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Brownies and lots of other delightful things. We charged £2 a plate and raised £80.

We also took part in playing “Guess what song Pudsey and Gary sang live in concert” we charged £2 a guess and £30 went to Children in Need and £30 went to the winner.

Altogether Borehamwood Group raised a total of £121."

That makes a grand total of £369.62 - great stuff!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Nic Tries a Double Link-Up

IW Combined Charities Fair 2013 002Last Monday, Nic Hewlett of Rowan House swapped her desk in Swindon for a day at the Inner Wheel combined charity event in Cirencester.

She managed to combine two Community Link-Up elements by linking together fundraising and volunteering when she applied for her day's Volunteer Time. As you can see (to the left of the picture), her role for the day was helping out on one of the many stalls.

IW Combined Charities Fair 2013 001 - CopyThe money raised on the day - £234 - will go towards the many charities - both local and further afield - supported by Cirencester's Inner Wheel, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2013.

Nic's fundraising - and Smiths News - were celebrated in the Inner Wheel's national magazine this summer when her fellow member Liz Tovey reported on her receiving Smiths News's Community Champion of the Year award last year. Said Liz:

"Nic our youngest member - and the first with no ties to Rotary - joined us two and a half years ago and is already on the committee, showing a great enthusiasm and totally 'being a friend'.

Well done Nic, we are all very proud of your achievement."

And so are we!

Update: This is post number 500 on the blog! Many thanks to all of you who've contributed news for us to publish over the past three years :D

Friday, 15 November 2013

Ahoy Children in Need!

[caption id="attachment_7308" align="alignright" width="300"]Children in Need Gingerbread Men Pudsey says 'Hurrah!' :)[/caption]

We have news of another virtual Link-Up!

Following last week's Children in Need preview, Newport, Rowan House and The Consortium have all been in touch with news on how they're taking part this year.

Newport's Judy Read says:

"It will be cakes / bacon rolls on Thursday and we are going to be wearing hats for the day – the sillier the better.  We will be charging 50p to wear a hat but fining people £2.00 if they don’t join in!"

...and this from The Consortium's Joanne Kent:

"We are having a Children in Need day with people invited to come in wearing spotty clothes and bringing teddies in."

... and I hear there's a sweetie stall at Rowan House with home-made honeycomb. Save some for me!

We're standing by to take on board all the pictorial evidence and news on the amount raised. If your location is also taking part, grab that camera phone now and add your news and pics! Pudsey gets an extra £20 if you do so :)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Children in Need Ahead!

pudsey stickersNext Friday (15th November 2013), the UK will explode in a frenzy of Pudsey bears as this year's Children in Need is upon us!

Last year Newport decided to support this event and we'd love to hear from any location taking part in 2013.

Stuck for ideas?

[caption id="attachment_4399" align="alignleft" width="300"]Pudsey Cupcake anyone? Mmm - Pudsey Cupcake anyone?[/caption]

The Children in Need website has a downloadable workplace fundraising pack, plus plenty of other downloadable ideas and resources for you to use.

Remember, there's an additional £20 donation up for grabs for any fundraising stories/pictures featured - about Children in Need or otherwise - here on Community Link-Up.

Simply complete the Publicity Form and send us your pics!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Michael's Blog - Busy, Busy Busy...

Apologies for the delay in the blog – I’ve had a busy few months and plenty of news to fill you in on!

I have a wee house! I’ve managed to get myself on the property ladder in Bath with some lovely scenery and of course just a few miles from my other home - the pool. Moving house is an enjoyable but hugely stressful experience. I’ve found myself losing entire days to completing fairly trivial tasks like navigating the DVLA website to change my mailing address and deciding on which colour my cereal bowls should be.

[caption id="attachment_6882" align="alignright" width="300"]Michael With Team Pastel Michael with InStore's Team Pastel[/caption]

Last month I took part in the Swim Britain Bristol event; a relay challenge in teams of four in the hope of boosting participation numbers in the sport around the UK. I haven’t swum with my mum since I was a kid and I was impressed with her breaststroke skills. Watching my sister, Lauren, however was a different story and I thought at one stage I would have to jump in! I did advise her to do some training before the event ;)

The InStore team were strong too and congratulations to Laura, Lisa, Sam and Sophie for completing the event in some impressive times.

In between settling into the new house, I’ve been competing at the World Cup circuit; a series of 8 competitions in 8 different countries around the world from August – November. Most recently I competed in Moscow, Dubai & Doha with some encouraging results. It’s not often I get to stand atop the podium but I managed to do so in Dubai and Doha after collecting a few more Silvers (shock) at the earlier stage. My results there have given me a nice boost of confidence after a difficult finish to last season and things are back on track.

Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing are the last 3 destinations on the circuit which will start next week. I’m looking to build on the results from last month and continue to build confidence in the lead up to the European Championships in Denmark early December, followed by the Duel in the Pool meet – Europe vs USA just before Christmas in Glasgow.

An exciting few months of racing is lined up. Travelling is one of the great perks of the job. Visiting places like Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing is a great experience and one which I may not have had, if it wasn’t for swimming.

The World Cup circuit is acting as a tough travel and racing schedule for me in preparation for the Europeans and Duel meet. The European Champs is another opportunity for me to challenge the best in the world and another race with some great rivals including Daniel Gyurta – the Hungarian swimmer that has dominated the 200m Breaststroke in recent years.

These competitions are all key markers in the race to Glasgow 2014 – the biggest race of my career. I’m training harder than ever and doing everything I can to stay fit and healthy for the trials event next April and the Games themselves in July 2014.

Thanks for your continued support.

…if anyone is in the area, feel free to stop by for a cuppa!

Thanks for your update Michael - we were so pleased to see you strike gold in the World Cup races! Team Pastel were also thrilled to meet you at Swim Britain in Bristol :)

Good luck for the next set of World Cup competitions, the Europeans and the Duel in the Pool, your busy schedule looks set to continue!

NB Michael's too modest to mention he's a Games Ambassador for next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill and Nicola Adams :D

Monday, 4 November 2013

Counting Steps to Aid Small Publishers

counting steps front coverHere at Smiths News we’re used to ensuring the printed word gets out on time on a daily basis. You may not know that Group Communications Director Mark Charlton has taken this one step further by becoming a published author.

His book Counting Steps was published last year and was nominated for Welsh Book of the Year. Not bad for a debut!

This week Cinnamon Press - the book’s publisher  - are offering Kindle readers the opportunity to read Mark’s book for free!

There are no gimmicks, no catches - just a free download instead of the usual £4.49. There's even an extract to read online.

Click here for free kindle download of Counting Steps, or forward this link to yourself, where you can do this later!

Next  week it will be at the bargain price of £1.59 and then it goes back up to £4.49.

Giving away free copies might seem counter intuitive, but it's an established, if costly, technique that publishers use to rise up the rankings - and the impact on later sales is evidently positive. It costs publishers a lot to do this...

Note: Mark has also donated all his royalties and tutoring fees to good causes such as the National Autistic Society.  For the past two years he’s also volunteered to tutor at the National Writers' Centre of Wales.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Paris to Swindon News


We have the latest fundraising news from the Paris to Swindon bike ride!

Between them the team have raised a total of...

... drumroll...

£23, 243.49!!!!!!!

Sponsorship is still coming in, so we may yet see the magic total of £25,000 raised from this flagship event. If you haven't done so already, then the team page has all the necessary links for you to support the cyclist or charity of your choice. Let's make all those sore muscles and tired legs really worthwhile!

Update 5th December 2013: the magic £25,000 has been reached! We have a record for the total raised via our bike rides of...

£25, 626.74!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NB Cyclists: If you have received any offline donations, you can update your donation page to reflect the full picture of your fundraising efforts.

We're preparing a fundraising special, which will have lots of good news about everyone's efforts this year. Keep your eyes peeled!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Steve's Marathon Effort

[caption id="attachment_7248" align="alignright" width="320"]Steve poses outside Smiths News Steve poses outside Smiths News with some remarkably fresh looking shoes ;)[/caption]

Steve Milner from Birmingham recently completed the Leicester Marathon in a time of 4 hours 20 minutes 13 seconds and finished 340th out of over 3000 runners.

He's raised over £400 so far, which will be going towards the Children's Cancer Unit at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

This is one of the specialist cancer units supported by the Teenage Cancer Trust. There are 27 of these located around the country, with 3 of them serving Birmingham. A further 9 are in development or refurbishment.

Another of the existing units is at The Christie in Manchester, a name which should be familiar to Community Link-Up readers already, via the cycling efforts of Steve Benson plus Lynn Henshaw, Mike Makinson and Tom Sheehy.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Here's to the First Link-Up Fortnight!

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="6963,6922,6909,6895,6882,6850,6827,6868"]
Congratulations - September's Link-Up fortnight was a great success!

With two flagship events held over consecutive weekends, much of the attention here on Community Link-Up was glued to the Paris to Swindon Bike Ride and then the Futsal tournament. Both events ensured we had the best day, week and month ever in terms of readers turning to this blog for news.

The sporting theme continued with Slough devising an event not mentioned before on the blog - a Wii tennis tournament! Newport and Instore/Worcester MSC also got into the 'swim' of things by taking part in the Swim Britain events in Cardiff and Bristol respectively.

Food was also a popular theme, with Bertrams, Peterborough, Rowan House, Stockport, and The Consortium all choosing to take part in the World's Biggest Coffee Morning (see here and here). NAC and BLS tooks things a whole stage further by having their very own Great Yorkshire Bake-Off competition! Borehamwood held a Food Day, with a variety of sweet and savoury treats on offer. Finally, Rowan House rounded off their quiz evening with a fish and chip supper.

Cross business Link-Ups also came to the fore, with new colleagues from Houtschild and Erasmus meeting up for our first Community Link-Up event held in the Netherlands. Members of the Graduate Scheme also ensured a corner of Swindon is a much better place to be with their gardening activities at the Swindon Therapy Centre for Multiple Sclerosis.

We didn't have an official Community Week this year, so it was good to see the opportunity was taken for many Link-Up Fortnight events to have an additional fundraising or volunteering element. Over £2,000 was raised, as well as the money raised through the Paris to Swindon Bike Ride. Donations for the latter are still coming in, so we're not quite ready to reveal the final total yet.

With hundreds of you taking part and having lots of fun in the process, we can declare Link-Up Fortnight a huge success!

Thanks to everyone who organised an event or took part, and to all of you who tuned into the blog along the way :)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Futsal Footage

Futsal sign

Photographer Kris Talikowski was on hand last month to take a set of superb shots at our Futsal tournament, so naturally we wanted to share some of them with you!

Everyone enjoyed Dan Magness showing off his world-class freestyle football skills!

Dan Magness

Then it was onto the tournament itself. Let's sit back and enjoy the action...

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="7212,7242,7210,7213,7214,7215,7218,7216,7224,7222,7219,7223,7238,7225,7227,7229,7220,7230,7233,7231,7232,7221,7226,7217,7235,7228,7234,7236,7237,7239,7240,7241,7243,7211"]

And you can't beat a good buffet to round things off nicely!

Futsal buffet

Monday, 21 October 2013

Michael Strikes Gold!

Congratulations to Michael Jamieson who won GOLD last week in the men's 200m breaststroke at the FINA Swimming World Cup in Dubai.

He also picked up a silver medal in the men's 100m breaststroke - and this comes just a week after his World Cup double silver medal winning performances in Moscow.

Leading the qualifiers, he claimed gold by almost two seconds in a time of 2.06.68 minutes. Note, this was in a short-course pool of 25 metres, so does not beat the long-course British and Commonwealth record he set at last year's Olympics.

Michael's winning form bodes well as he'll be spearheading the European Allstars challenge for the Duel in the Pool  against Team USA in Glasgow on December 20-21.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Paris to Swindon Revisited

[caption id="attachment_7124" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Some views of Paris by night - a great start to the bike ride Some views of Paris by night - a great start to the bike ride[/caption]

Community Week bike ride stalwart Martin Beach from Bertrams put his bicycle to one side for this year's Paris to Swindon event. However, he still had a major part to play, by accompanying the team to help out with the logistics side of things instead.

[caption id="attachment_7125" align="aligncenter" width="640"]A ground level view of the Paris to Swindon bike ride team in action The team on their way...[/caption]

He also had the opportunity to take plenty of photos of the team in action. It's been really hard to whittle his shots to those selected for the following slideshow. The quality of them all is excellent.

[caption id="attachment_7126" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Coming back to blighty Coming back to blighty...[/caption]

So settle down and enjoy a final flavour of this year's bike ride...

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="7128,7129,7130,7131,7132,7133,7134,7135,7136,7137,7138,7139,7141,7142,7143,7144,7145,7146,7147,7148,7149,7150,7153,7154,7156,7157,7158,7159,7160,7161,7162,7163,7164,7165,7166,7167,7168,7169,7170,7171,7172,7173,7174,7175,7176,7177,7178,7179,7180,7181,7182,7184,7185,7186,7183,7187"]

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Latest News from LTN

LTN's Terry Skipsey has been in touch with news of a couple of fundraising activities they've held over the past few weeks...

Sadly, John Paice, one of our night drivers passed away on 26th August. He had been suffering from lung cancer for some time and had been off on sick leave since September 2012. He had expressed wishes for no flowers at his funeral. A staff collection was made and a donation of £140 to Macmillan nurses has been made.

Terry has also organised an annual golf event for the past 5 years in memory of his late father, who died 8 years ago. The event grows every year and this year's was the biggest yet...

This year, 73 golfers made up of family, friends & colleagues attended Surrey Downs Golf Club on Monday 9th September. 27 holes of golf & an evening presentation hosted by family friend Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris with his many football stories and comedian Mickey Pugh ensured that a good time was had by all. A raffle & number of auction items raised £400 for the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. A further £120 was raised  for the Stacey Mowle appeal by pre-selling ‘Mulligan’  golf shots for £5.00  each,  before the main afternoon round commenced.

Thanks for the update Terry, and do send our best wishes to John Paice's family.

NB If you've organised an event recently which you'd like featured on Community Link-Up, we'd love to hear from you! Don't forget, there's an extra £20 donation for your good cause if you do.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Their Faces Really Lit Up

Over the summer, pupils at Flegg High School near Norwich travelled to Kenya, accompanied by Jon Green, Bertrams' IT Development Manager. Seeing a number of visits to primary schools were on the itinerary, he also arranged to take a company donation of books with them.

His son, Tom Green was on the trip and wrote the following thank you letter on behalf of his school. Of special interest are the photos he included to illustrate the huge impact the donation will make, even though to us it might seem relatively small...

Their faces really lit up

I would just like to thank you for the generous donation of books for the Flegg High School trip to Kenya in July.

The books were shared between the primary schools we visited and, as you can see from the photos the classrooms are not very well equipped at all.

Kenya picture 1The children are very poor and were really pleased with the lovely books they received. Their faces really lit up when they realised there were enough books for all of them. We think this will have a real impact on their learning.

kenya picture 2kenya picture 3Once again, many thanks, it was really appreciated by both the children in Kenya and myself and my classmates

Tom Green

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Consortium Rides High for Charity

[caption id="attachment_6991" align="alignright" width="225"]Consortium Bike riders Matt James, Ian Webb and Matt Redwood at the finishing line[/caption]

Following the success of their riders in this year's Paris to Swindon bike ride, we have an update from The Consortium on how their overall fundraising is going and how this is helping their chosen charity for 2013, West Wiltshire Special Needs Activity Scheme (WWSNAS).

Staff raised an amazing total of £3,734 before the ride and the cycling efforts of Matt James and Matt Redwood have added a further £295 so far. They aim to increase their contribution to £500.

Speaking about the bike ride, Matt James said:

“It was a fantastic experience like nothing else I have ever done, it was really challenging however the sense of achievement when we finished was incredible. I would gladly do it all again tomorrow if I had the chance.”

Each year, WWSNAS needs to raise £15,000 towards its operational costs, so The Consortium's efforts this year are making a significant difference.

The WWSNAS's activities includes a play scheme which runs for a two-week period during the summer holidays, giving vital support to children with special needs and their families.

This year, the scheme was able to offer 30 children in the Primary age group and 34 children in the Secondary age group at least one day on the scheme, with activities ranging from swimming and music therapy to a visit from the ‘Little Zoo’ and ‘Ticklish Allsorts’.

Gill Morris, the charity’s chair person said:

girl in red tshirt summer 2013“All in all, this year was a very busy and enjoyable two weeks but without the 100 volunteers – many of whom come back year after year – as well as the co-ordinators, deputies and team leaders, we would not be able to run.  We are very fortunate to have been chosen as The Consortium’s charity of the year for 2013.”

As well as WWSNAS, Matt James, Ian Webb and Matt Redwood are raising funds for Help for Heroes, Wiltshire Air Ambulance, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and CLIC. Their combined total raised so far for all their nominated charities is £3,573.50.

Future fundraising events in the pipeline for The Consortium include a Race Night and a Christmas Raffle, with all funds raised going to WWSNAS.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Consortium Cake Cheer

[caption id="attachment_6931" align="aligncenter" width="640"]The MacmillanCoffee morning at the Consortium An amazing selection of cakes and lots of people queuing up to eat them :)[/caption]

We have news of our fifth coffee morning in aid of Macmillan! Both The Consortium's Trowbridge and Shrewsbury locations made sure staff had a plentiful selection of cakes to choose from.

They raised £356, which brings the overall total raised by Smiths News for 2013's World's Biggest Coffee Morning to £1,385.90!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Stickability is Go

[caption id="attachment_6980" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Class players and delivery team[1] Pupils from Westbury Junior School with the day's Stickability team[/caption]Following the successful pilot of Stickability earlier this year, Monday afternoon saw the exciting official launch of the programme to a wider public via the media.

[caption id="attachment_6984" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dave Attwood and Ryan Dave Attwood and Ryan[/caption]

The session followed the structure of a typical Stickability session, with both indoor reading and outdoor sporting activities, plus handing out the all important stickers!

Newly appointed Managing Director Glenn Leech and staff member Tina Lawes represented The Consortium's side of the partnership, and Vicky Heslop was there on behalf of Bath Rugby Foundation.

Two of Bath Rugby's playing stars - Dave Attwood and David Sisi - were special guests for the day to complete the Stickability lineup.    

[caption id="attachment_6985" align="alignright" width="300"]David Sisi Hand Tia her sticker David Sisi hands Tia her sticker[/caption]

Vicky Heslop, Education Manager at Bath Rugby Foundation said,

We have piloted this programme in a variety of local schools and found that it really boosts children’s confidence, particularly for those who start off with the lowest levels of confidence. 72% of the 193 children in the pilot phase showed increased confidence scores, some with an enormous increase of over 30% in just six weeks.

We are delighted to have proven so far that this programme really works, but it would not have been possible without extraordinary support from The Consortium. In addition to fully funding the programme, they have also provided their staff as weekly volunteers to help deliver the programme. Over the first year of delivery, the volunteers will have provided around 400 hours of support and will have had a positive impact on the lives of around 800 local children.

[caption id="attachment_6986" align="alignleft" width="300"]Tina helps out Tina Lawes with the children[/caption]

In its first year, Stickability will have worked in 30 primary schools in a wide area of the South West spanning Bath and Swindon. Volunteers have come from across The Consortium and Smiths News Group.  We have been particularly impressed that incoming Managing Director of The Consortium, Glenn Leech, has led the way by making time to volunteer weekly within days of taking up the role, and he has been able to see the impact on the children for himself."

[caption id="attachment_6982" align="alignright" width="300"]Glenn with Tia Glenn  Leech with Tia[/caption]

Glenn Leech, Managing Director at The Consortium said,

“I am really proud of the support The Consortium has provided to the Bath Rugby Foundation, and am delighted to have been a part of such a fantastic programme. Stickability offers such benefits to the children and I believe it would be a positive intervention in any school.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Vicky and her team.  They are truly inspirational and so skilled at engaging the children.  I look forward to next year.”

Whilst this was the official launch, Stickability has already proved its worth. One pupil who took part in the pilot programme in a school in Swindon has autism and had always refused to participate in his school PE lessons. His involvement in the programme really helped to build his confidence.  His school reports that after taking part in the programme, he happily took part in his first ever PE session in his four years at school. Most importantly, he absolutely loved it and the following week even asked if he could take part!

In total 30 schools from the south-west will be involved in the programme this year and spaces are still available. To nominate a school to take part, contact vicky.heslop@bathrugby.com.

Anyone from Smiths News in the south-west who wishes to volunteer on the Stickability programme should contact Claire Philips-High.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

We hope you enjoy your new garden - Love all at Smiths News

[caption id="attachment_6946" align="aligncenter" width="640"]The team with Laura- Centre fundraiser 2 The team with Laura (in the middle), the centre's fundraiser[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6949" align="alignright" width="225"]Message in the guest book Message in the guest book[/caption]

27th September saw all the current and ex-participants of the Smiths News Graduate Scheme Link-Up to create raised flower beds and herb gardens for the Swindon Therapy Centre for Multiple Sclerosis.

[caption id="attachment_6947" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Before and After Before...        ... and After[/caption]

This is a local charity funded wholly by donations and fundraising and has been set up to provide alternative therapies to patients with chronic neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Cerebral Palsy.

They offer oxygen therapy treatments, physiotherapy, seated exercise classes for those with restricted movement, counselling services and much more. Many of the visitors to the Swindon Therapy Centre are not able to get out of their house unaided and as such they rely on a community transport service to bring them to the Centre.

The Centre provides them with an environment where they can relax, meet like-minded people with similar disabilities and benefit from some short-term improvements to their ongoing health struggles.

The team of eight - Ken Ingham, Anya Perry, Emma Allan, Fern Sandercock, Emma Wilkinson, Matt Watson, Chloe Richards, and Sam Lucas - spent the entire day at the Centre.

[gallery type="slideshow" ids="6954,6958,6960,6961,6956,6971,6959,6968,6969,6967,6953,6957,6955,6970,6963,6964,6962,6965,6966,6972"]

They dug out and constructed raised flower beds to form part of a relaxation area for the users of the Centre and also planted shrubs and herbs to provide an attractive space. This will also give some of the Centre users the opportunity to get involved with some light gardening activities as a means to keep active within the constraints of their disability.

The results have gone down very well with the Centre, with the team receiving messages of thanks on the Centre's Facebook page and via several emails...

Via Facebook:

"We couldn't be happier with our new front garden done for us today by Matt Watson, Ken Ingham, Sam Lucas, Chloe Richards, Emma Allan, Emma Wilkinson, Fern Sandercock and Anya Perry from Smiths News. It's such a lovely space turned from bare patio slabs into an enclosed little garden with flowers and herbs. THANK YOU :) :)"

"Tremendous thanks to Matt Watson, Ken Ingham, Sam Lucas, Chloe Richards, Emma Allan, Emma Wilkinson, Fern Sandercock, and Anya Perry from Smiths News who spent a day digging, planting, building and painting to give us this amazing lovely front area.

Where we previously only had a couple of benches on a patio square we now have a charming enclosed space complete with bird feeder, flower bed and herb garden. They worked really hard all day to produce this for us and we hope they pop by again soon as we definitely owe them some drinks and cakes at least!

We hope all our members and visitors enjoy the garden for a long time to come :)"

Via email:

"...thank you so much for doing our front garden, it looks absolutely great. I have had lots of lovely comments from people this week so will you please pass on my thanks to your team for doing such a fantastic job."

"Thank you and the team so much for everything Friday.

It’s been really nice for everyone here to come in for their usual Monday and be greeted with such a lovely front area.

I’ve got ambitious plans to see if we can do some form of winter event out there, perhaps some winter cooking using the herbs.. as its such a nice area. We’ll see about it.

The pictures that I took are up on our facebook [see specific links above - Ed] and there’s a bit going in our newsletter about the task as well."

Thanks to Sam Lucas for the above report and for sending lots of photos, which tell the story of the day so well.