LOCAL groups in Bradford have benefitted from more than £10,000 distributed by independent charity shop The Ark.

Recipients of grants from the busy shop in Heights Lane, Daisy Hill, range from refugee allotment groups to young people’s fencing classes, a school’s engineering project, community litter picks and a local summer gala.

Altogether £10,070 has been given out to 21 groups, thanks to a never-ending stream of donations and regular customers.

The latest round of grants - given out twice a year from surplus funds raised during the previous year - include:

*£500 for equipment for Abilities, to deliver fencing classes for young people in Girlington and Heaton

*£500 for sensory equipment for children with autism at Green Lane School

*£450 for a women’s allotment group at Scotchman Road

*£400 to Heaton Gala

*£500 for a refugee allotment group

*£500 for a community litter pick and class equipment for the Millan Centre

*£500 to Westbourne Primary School for an engineering project.

The Ark opened in 1992. It came into being after the local Council of Churches conducted a social audit in 1988 of all the statutory and voluntary organisations in the area and the needs identified by local people. One of the main needs was funding for small projects that could not source money from existing sources.

Community workers Heidi Cannon and Trish Bannister set up the shop, which is run by staff including a manager, a deputy manager and many volunteers, ranging from people in their 70s to older teenagers, from all cultural backgrounds.

“All sorts of goods are donated, brought in by local people. People who have heard of the shop bring things from far and wide,” said Mollie Somerville, who sits on the management committee for the Ark on behalf of the Churches Together - Girlington Heaton and Manningham Council of Churches. “Clothes are the most popular, then there’s bric-a-brac, household goods, books, dvds ,linen, toys and small items of furniture.

“Electrical goods and jewellery are also in demand - we are one of the few local charity shops that can PAT-test electrical goods,” adds Mollie, who also volunteers in the shop and is on the grants committee. “Probably the biggest donors are the customers themselves.”

Money donated to the Millan Centre, a community centre for women and girls in Manningham and Heaton, will help with its employability and computer class.

Said centre administrator Aaisha Esmail: “We didn’t have enough resources for these classes and often would struggle due to more demand.

“We used the funding to buy equipment. It really helped and has made a positive contribution to our activities. We would like to give a massive thank you to The Ark for their contribution made in helping the Millan Centre to empower women with skills - it will help them in seeking employment.”

Janet Gore, business manager at Westbourne Primary School in Skinner Lane, said: “The grant from The Ark paid for robotic workshops which the children really enjoyed.”

The funding came at a perfect time for Abilities, a charity that runs activities for families. Said staff member Tahira: “We had started some classes through the British Fencing Association, who funded us to run free classes for women. These have been successful, so naturally the women began to ask for classes for their children

“Unfortunately I was unable to provide them as an application to another fund for children’s fencing kits hadn’t been successful. Then a friend told us about the Ark funding. We put in a bid and it was successful. It means we can now buy these kits and the children can start lessons. This is a real achievement and we are really excited.”

Yasmin Hussain, of the Women’s allotment group at Scotchman Road, said: “Thanks to the grant we are able to keep the allotment going. We’ve spent some of the money on fruit trees. Gardening benefits not only us but our families too. Coming to the allotment is good for our physical and mental health and we get good fresh fruit and vegetables to take home.”

Among the volunteers are people accessing mental health services. “Helping in the shop gives them a chance to build up confidence,” says shop manager Jessica Barraclough.

She added: “It is very rewarding working here as we can visibly see where the money we raise is going within the community. We receive a lot of thank you letters.

“The shop also helps local people who cannot afford to buy brand new items. It might be a little shop on a back street but it provides a lot for the community.”

Heaton Woodcraft Folk were awarded £500 for a summer camp for local youngsters. Organiser Mary Phillips said: “ Without the grant we wouldn’t be able to afford the camp. We are so grateful to the Ark for making this possible.”

The Ark’s manager and three directors form the grants committee meet twice a year to allocate the surplus funds that have been raised the previous year.

“Local people from small, and some large, organisations fill in a simple form to ask for a grant of up to £500. We support a wide range of projects,” says Mollie.

The Ark is named after the biblical story of Noah. “Noah’s ark was a safe place for people and they were looked after,” adds Mollie. “Nobody is expected to go into the shop two by two, but they will get a warm welcome.”

*The Ark is at 89A Heights Lane, Bradford. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact them on arkshopbradford@gmail.com