A CRUCIAL fund which gave more than £3 million to charities last year amid Covid-19 has been relaunched with a £10,000 donation from The Argus.

The Sussex Crisis Fund was first set up by the Sussex Community Foundation in March last year, in response to the mounting crisis – just three days before the nation was plunged into lockdown for the first time.

The emergency fund aimed to help charities and community groups supporting people in different ways across the county in the wake of the pandemic.

The fund was kickstarted with £50,000 donations from The Argus Appeal and American Express, and donations quickly flooded in to help the most vulnerable.

From charities tackling food poverty to loneliness - grants from the fund "reached every corner of Sussex and helped people in every way imaginable” - thanks in part to generous donations from Argus readers.

Now the Sussex Community Foundation is relaunching the fund in a new Support and Recovery phase for charities and community groups working to help people amid the fallout from Covid-19, and is welcoming applications again.

The Argus Appeal has helped kick off the relaunch with a £10,000 donation.

Kevin Richmond, chief executive at the Sussex Community Foundation said: “We are so thrilled The Argus has stepped up to help once again.

"This third lockdown is now beginning to ease and we are all delighted to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

"However, for many people, the fallout from this pandemic is hitting harder than ever and there is much more work for our amazing local charities to do to support those people.”

The Argus: Mitchie Alexander at Brighton Grub Hub. Photo: Darren Cool Mitchie Alexander at Brighton Grub Hub. Photo: Darren Cool

Mitchie Alexander runs Brighton Grub Hub, a community garden and social enterprise which has been sending fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families and aims to support food banks with its spring harvest.

A £5,000 grant from the crisis fund allowed the hub to purchase more tools and to build a polytunnel at its plot at Stanmer Organics to extend the growing season, so leafy vegetables can be grown through the winter,

Mitchie said: "The need has got so much worse. There are families who have found themselves financially struggling as their work dried up, and those who were already struggling.

"Some people are shielding and there are those who have stopped getting the bus to the supermarket, and the shops where they live have very limited fresh food.

"We're also fulfilling a need by providing food banks with fresh, seasonal vegetables."

Mike Nicholls, chairman of the Selsey Community Forum, said the charity would not have survived without the help of the crisis fund over the past year.

The Argus: Selsey Community Forum. Photo: Darren CoolSelsey Community Forum. Photo: Darren Cool

The charity runs the Selsey Care Shop in the town's high street with a range of support services for adults and older people.

It received a £5,000 grant to run a buddy system providing practical, emotional and social support.

Mike said: "Our buddy support has 80 volunteers who do things like shopping and collecting medicines for older people, as well as dementia support and carer support.

"We also run a befriending service with a number of social activities and the shop provides debt advice and a wellbeing service.

"The number of people coming to us increased by 25 per cent last year and we had to increase our staff and premises costs by about 40 per cent.

"Frankly, we would not have survived without the crisis fund. They gave us timely resources to respond to an increasing need."

Another organisation to benefit from the crisis fund is Black Butterfly in Hastings and St Leonards, which received a £5,000 grant to purchase refurbished bikes to support fitness and health during lockdown, and to refurbish iPads for young people not eligible for the government's computer assistance scheme.

The Argus: Nichelle Kelleher from Hastings & St Leonards-based Black Butterfly. Photo: Darren CoolNichelle Kelleher from Hastings & St Leonards-based Black Butterfly. Photo: Darren Cool

Mr Richmond said advice agencies in Sussex are now describing a new cohort of people through their doors – those who are "new to poverty".

They say many are reaching a "tipping point" with their finances, having used up savings and reached credit limits, and are seeking help for the first time, including from food banks.

Both young people and older workers have been especially hit by job losses and reduced employment opportunities due to Covid-19, while many people have suffered with their mental health during the crisis.

Women’s refuges are also in high demand – with situations of domestic abuse exacerbated by three lockdowns.

Mr Richmond said: “Sussex charities continue to face immense pressure in 2021, with some even facing closure.

The Argus: Kevin Richmond, chief executive of the Sussex Crisis FundKevin Richmond, chief executive of the Sussex Crisis Fund

“The vital services they deliver to local people are being stretched almost to breaking point, which is why we are re-launching the Sussex Crisis Fund – with what we are calling the Support and Recovery phase and, once again, we are asking for your help."

The relaunched crisis fund will make grants across four main areas: mental health support, advice and support services, costs associated with providing food and other vital support and digital inclusion.

Alongside helping to address extreme poverty and disadvantage, the Sussex Community Foundation is encouraging applications to support people disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, including women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and children and young people.

Mr Richmond added: “We want to thank all Argus readers who so generously donated last year.

"Please do consider giving again, to make sure that our vital local charities can continue to help those who need it the most.”

To make a donation, visit totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sussexcrisisfund.

Charities wishing to apply for grants can do so online at sussexgiving.org.uk/sussex-crisis-fund-support-and-recovery.