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Northern Irish football club handed £148k funding boost by UK trust

A Northern Ireland community football club have received a huge funding boost to upgrade their 3G playing surface.

Lurgan Town have been awarded £148,000 by the Garfield Weston Foundation, a charitable grant-making organisation that donates £62m across the UK each year.

A part of the the trust's 60th anniversary celebrations, a special fund was set up and, due to unprecedented demand, has been boosted from £5m to £11m, with over 150 charities set to benefit, including Lurgan Town.

Over 1,000 young people enjoy the work of the club's 50 volunteers but such high volume has taken its toll on the club's main artificial playing surface, which can now replaced.

“I honestly can’t put it into words what this funding means to us - I was over the moon when I got the call and just couldn’t stop smiling," said Lurgan Town Secretary and Head Coach Philip McKinley.

"We are delighted that the Garfield Weston Foundation recognise the importance of this club in the local area – what we offer is much more than football and we have many volunteers who started out as young players themselves. This funding will mean the club can continue to provide for 1,000 plus people per week to keep active and socialise with team-mates and opponents alike. A massive thank you to the Garfield Weston Foundation for their support.”

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Lurgan Town U15s girls team.

The Weston Anniversary Fund Trustees took the decision to more than double the fund after receiving over 2,300 applications, with over 60% from charities that have never applied before.

Brian White, who has two children who play at the club, has highlighted the cross-community ethos behind LTFC.

He said: “Lurgan remains a deeply divided town - you could almost draw a line right down the middle and it would be a good representation of the divided communities that live there. Children traditionally attend their own schools and sports clubs based on the religion they belong to. Lurgan Town Football Club is an exception to that rule. This is place where children can go, feel safe and be part of a wider community - a big Lurgan Town family where lifetime friendships are cultivated.”

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Lurgan Town Under 14s.

The Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, paid tribute to volunteers like those at Lurgan Town.

“What really impressed our Trustees is the amount of volunteering and community involvement that’s going on across the UK," she said. "We heard about so many amazing projects involving local people who are helping their communities thrive - regardless of cuts, Brexit debates and other challenges.

"The response from charities to this new fund clearly demonstrates the voluntary sector is proactive and energetic; far from the complacency it is sometimes accused of.

"Yet we can also see the level of need that exists in our local communities and how much the services charities provide are so desperately needed. The impact of these grants will be significant, with benefits for many people lasting years.”

A recent survey by the Foundation found that two-thirds (66%) of small charities expect their income to stay the same or decline this year, yet over half (55%) expect to be delivering more services. Getting help with refurbishments or a new building has been highlighted by charities as important as it helps them earn new income.

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