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Craft bags for Eden children

Jim Sisson, volunteer Driver with Fellrunner loading up the last of the bags for delivery

Penrith Town Council, in partnership with Cumbria County Council Eden Local Committee, Barnardo’s, Fellrunner Community Transport and the Cumbria Community Foundation COVID-19 Fund have provided 400 bags of craft equipment, stationery, reading books and sensory toys for children in Penrith and Eden who may be facing extra challenges.

The project was developed by local primary school teacher and Penrith Town Councillor, Nicola Hawkins: “I’m privileged to know first-hand we have very many clever, creative young children in our town. It’s wonderful that Penrith Town Council is enabling all of them to dig into their imaginations and express themselves through art and craft at this challenging time for all of our community. To see my nugget of an idea for Craft Care being turned into reality is truly heart-warming.”

The project was joint funded in part by Eden Area Local Committee. Cllr David Whipp, Chair of Eden Local Committee, said: “I am delighted that the committee is able to support such great projects across the district, particularly helping children to keep busy and stimulate their imaginations during these uncertain times. The craft bags will provide a fun way to help keep your little ones busy at home.

“It is humbling to see the enthusiasm and dedication of so many volunteers and local people involved in supporting and helping each other across the local area. My thanks to all involved for their ongoing efforts.”

Penrith Town Council, Cumbria Community Fund COVID-19 grant, Barnardo’s were joint funders and the bags have been delivered by the amazing volunteers from the Fellrunner Community Transport.

Julie Fletcher, Barnardo’s Children’s Services Manager said: “We are pleased to support these craft and wellbeing packs that are being distributed to hundreds of children in the Eden area. Some of the items included that we felt would be particularly beneficial to support the wellbeing of children at this time are the fidget toys to help relieve anxiety, as well as playdough pots, sensory toys and doodle pads. We know that after many weeks spent at home, these packs are likely to be a welcome distraction for lots of families, who may also appreciate knowing others are thinking of them at this difficult time. We encourage any Eden families that are struggling during this lockdown period and feel they may need further support to get in touch with their local Barnardo’s children’s centre.”

Gary Higgs, Grants & Donor Services Officer at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “We know the implications of enforced social isolation and having to stay at home can lead to boredom and frustration for many families and residents in Eden. We hope therefore that these packs will give children who are most in need of support with the means to have fun, get creative and cope during the lockdown.”

As part of the project the children have been invited to enter the Town Council’s “Customize It” Competition to design a cover for the bag that was provided with their goodies. The competition closes on 1 July 2020 and is being judged by local artist Karen McDougall, who will be looking for the most original and individual artwork.

Councillor Doug Lawson, Mayor of Penrith and his wife have organised and donated prizes for the competition. He said: “Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inequalities in our society. It is heart-breaking to think that there are so many children in our community who don’t have access to art and craft materials at home.

“As a school governor and parent, I am keenly aware of the importance for children of creativity and I am humbled that Penrith Town Council has been able to help deliver Craft Care.

“My wife and I also wanted to support this project personally by providing prizes for the competition. We are very grateful to local authors Steve Weatherill, who wrote “Baby Goz” and “Count on Goz”; Tim Stead, who wrote “Dinoshakes and Bellyaches” and “The Snots”; and Sophie Anderson, who wrote “The House With Chicken Legs” and “The Girl Who Speaks Bear”; all of whom have helped us to provide signed books which we hope will further encourage the winners to develop and express their creative side.”

The designs from the competition winners will be published in the press and on Penrith Town Council social media sites.

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