Well, that’s an interesting way to end a week!
I got a call from a York resident on Friday to inform me that a local boxing club with a huge social impact, is facing closure due to Covid unless it can secure a little bit of funding. So I got on the phone….
What’s fundamental is that some amazing people in the city are currently unable to support their beneficiaries. And where that situation exists, we will fight to help to support them.
So the boxing gym is open (in normal times) a few days a week to anybody who wants to train, get fit and socialise. The people who run it have a background in supporting the homeless, marginalised and young people at risk of offending. So any time you go, you could be training alongside all walks of life – from local business owners, council staff, ex-homeless and those in recovery.
The ethos of the gym is one of inclusivity and equality.
Once through the door, it doesn’t matter who you are. You come, you train, you belong – simple as.
The business model is relatively simple too. The overheads are super low, so the subs collected cover the costs (about £6k per year). If you can pay, you do so. If not, you’re still welcome. No profit is made and nobody is paid; there’s just enough to cover outgoings. But when Covid hit, those subs stopped. And with no reserves or profits to call upon, the gym has been running on fumes – paying it’s rent through sporadic donations from those still engaged but unable to attend.
A quick phone call with the owner on Saturday morning, followed by a call to a particular local business owner I knew would be empathetic, and I’d secured £3,000 to cover the gym for the next six months until it can start generating subs again.
What really struck me about this situation, is that the gym owner didn’t want to stick his hand out and ask for support.
It got me thinking how many other tiny little organisations and groups – who are having a huge impact in our communities – are struggling in silence? And who’s role is it to reach out and health check this ‘under the radar’ part of the sector? Support exists for registered charities of all sizes, and those who have the confidence, experience and articulation to shout the loudest and write the most bids.
But what about the little neighbourhood groups, supporting a niche group, whose existence few of us know about until it’s too late? There are so many of these groups across York. How are they doing? How many have we lost through covid? How many need that little injection of financial support to get them through lockdown?
One of my aims for Social Vision in 2021 is to identify as many of these micro social impact organisations as possible. Individually they lack visibility, but collectively they’re part of the fabric of York. So I will continue to champion, support and resource them so they can continue tackling inequality and social injustice across our City.
Photos courtesy of Becki McPhillips at All You Need is Love Photography