Celebrations across NI as groups share in £9m Lottery windfall
Thirty-one groups across Northern Ireland have been awarded more than £9m as part of The National Lottery Community Fund.
Ranging from £300 to £500,000, the awards are issued annually to individuals and projects and this year totalled £9,420,282 within Northern Ireland.
The grants are focused on projects which increase local community engagement alongside empowering young people, with specific focus on bringing people together to tackle everyday issues including poor mental health, isolation and dementia.
One beneficiary was Downpatrick Men's Club, which received £69,628 for its three-year project to run activities for men within the local area.
Founded in 2014 as a way for men to keep fit and meet other people within the community, the group now has more than 40 members and has diversified its social calendar: everything from yoga to bee-keeping, with the group even running its own community allotments and selling the produce at local markets.
The grant awarded today will secure the group's work for another three years and the project it is undertaking will look to build on the work the club is doing to improve health and reduce isolation.
John Gordon, secretary of the Downpatrick Men's Club, said: "The project encourages our members to share and learn skills through activities such as gardening and bee-keeping.
"We can also take part in physical exercise sessions, like walking and yoga, in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere."
"This is helping us improve our health and feel more confident about trying other activities," he added.
One of the biggest beneficiaries this year was CAN (Compass Advocacy Network), which supports adults with learning disabilities and autism within the Causeway Coast and Glens and the Mid and East Antrim areas.
The group received £361,297 and plans to use the money to improve access to social and leisure activities within Ballymoney, Coleraine and Ballymena.
Linda McKendry from CAN said: "This is an amazing opportunity for our guys to come together with people in their own communities for social and leisure opportunities and expand their networks."
The National Lottery has awarded more than £9bn nationwide since 2004, with more than 200,000 recipients.
The National Lottery Community Fund distributes over £600m a year throughout the UK.