AN EMERGENCY appeal has raised an incredible £2.7 million to support people affected by the coronavirus crisis since it was launched in March.

The Sussex Crisis Fund was set up by the Sussex Community Foundation on March 20 to provide funding for charities and groups supporting people across the county in the wake of the pandemic, just three days before the UK went into lockdown.

The Argus Appeal and American Express each contributed £50,000 to kickstart the fundraising and donations have since flooded in from individuals and organisations keen to help the most vulnerable.

Thanks in part to generous Argus readers, £2.6 million of the total £2.7 million raised has been given out in grants over the past eight months.

READ MORE: New strain of Covid-19 is 'spreading fast' in Brighton warns health chief

Community groups and charities were quick to adapt, with many volunteers working hard to deliver hot meals and food parcels to vulnerable people in isolation as well as those struggling to access food after job losses as a result of the pandemic.

Grants have been distributed to a diverse range of groups offering all kinds of services.

They include those tackling loneliness, such as Time To Talk Befriending in Brighton and Hove, to domestic abuse charities such as Rise, offering support for people at an increased risk during lockdown.

Chief executive of the Sussex Community Foundation Kevin Richmond said the organisations’s role this year has been to make sure charities could respond to the increased demand for services, as Covid-19 has created a greater financial burden for many and affected people’s relationships and mental health.

The Argus: Father Kieron O'Brien, Lauren Hutcheson and Tim Holtam of the Brighton Table Tennis Club food hubFather Kieron O'Brien, Lauren Hutcheson and Tim Holtam of the Brighton Table Tennis Club food hub

Mr Richmond said the fund had “reached every corner of Sussex and helped people in every way imaginable”.

One enterprising charity which created a whole new service to help residents in need is Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC), which set up a food hub back in April.

The club began distributing food parcels from its car park in Upper Bedford Street in Kemp Town, while also making use of its minibus to deliver food and cooked meals across the city, working closely with the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and other groups.

The club received two grants from the Sussex Crisis Fund worth a total of almost £10,000.

After BTTC was able to start running ping pong sessions again, the food hub was moved to the Parish Hall at St John the Baptist’s Church around the corner in Bristol Road, where it is still operating twice a week. The club’s founder Tim Holtam said: “The numbers are unbelievable.

“We’ve fed over 9,000 people who have visited our food hub more than 5,000 times.

“The Real Junk Food Project need to be thanked as they cook for us two to three times a week.

“It’s all about mucking in and helping each other during an unprecedented time.”

READ MORE: Police reveal shocking number of Covid fines issued in Brighton on New Year's Eve

Sapphire Pridsam set up the Brighton Cooking Club in June as a direct response to the pandemic.

The community group operates on a peer-to-peer basis, allowing residents to donate a portion of their dinner to a neighbour in need.

The innovative scheme received a second grant from the Sussex Crisis Fund in November to double its beneficiaries and to pilot work providing food education and a new recipe box service.

It is currently distributing 200 meals every week.

The Argus: Sapphire Pridsam and volunteers from the Brighton Cooking ClubSapphire Pridsam and volunteers from the Brighton Cooking Club

Funding has also been used to help charities move their services online, such as counselling and therapies.

Sussex Prisoners’ Families connects prisoners’ families with practical advice, emotional support and to each other, empowering them to cope better when a loved one receives a prison sentence.

A £5,000 grant from the Sussex Crisis Fund allowed the charity to continue providing support as the pandemic affected the criminal justice system and courts were forced to move to online hearings.

Co-founder Sam Hart said: “We

normally meet families through the courts.

“A lot of people were finding it very challenging as they could not visit

their loved ones in prison during lockdown.

“Our office went completely virtual and we had some quite outdated equipment, so the Sussex Crisis Fund grant really helped us to connect with people and as a team.”

Sam said the charity provides an essential service as there is no statutory support for those who have a relative going to prison.

She said: “It’s really important we’re there for them as there’s a lot of stigma attached to someone going to jail.

“Families are often surprised to learn there is help available from us.

“Sadly, prisoners’ children are much more likely to suffer from mental health problems and it can mean a whole lot of financial difficulties too.

“Families may be castigated by their communities and children may be bullied at school.

“We provide an opportunity for them to speak freely and to not be judged.”

READ MORE: 'Tier 5' - reports of heightened restrictions being considered in Tier 4 areas

Another charity which was able to reopen and expand its services in Brighton thanks to a grant through the Sussex Crisis Fund is Pelican Parcels in Castle Street.

The charity collects and distributes essential items to low-income families in the city. including cots, buggies, clothing and nappies.

But when Covid-19 hit, Pelican Parcels was forced to close its small office temporarily.

After receiving a £5,000 grant, the charity was able to reopen and go back to helping families.

The next phase of the Sussex Crisis Fund included support from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the National Emergencies Trust.

To donate, visit

Applications to the fund are currently paused, but it is hoped they will reopen soon.