Why we had to do this

Why we had to do this

Andy Preston, back in his home town Middlesbrough after a career in international finance, tells BQ why he has felt compelled to get involved in community support.

In my 46 years I’ve done a lot of things. And because I keep busy and don’t lack confidence - some of the stuff I’ve done has been unusual and interesting.

But one of the best things I’ve ever done is to help an incredible group called Middlesbrough Powerchair Football Club.

To see this remarkable team of individuals doing what they love - competing at sport and representing their home town - is more gratifying than I can describe here.

The £4,000 we gave them meant they could get more people like Owen to join in and experience the pride and passion of competitive sport.

It also means they can represent our town in the Championship Division, National League. We (myself and Tanya Garland of PR and marketing firm Cool Blue) invented the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation in 2010 – just as Government cuts were starting and the sudden lack of money was killing vital community groups.

We felt duty bound to create something new which united businesses and individuals who wanted to stand up and do something good for their home town.

The Powerchair Football Club is just one of many groups we’ve identified as being of huge value to our community.

We feel an obligation to do what we can to support groups like this with our money, which comes from local businesses and affluent individuals who voluntarily chip in between £3,000- £15,000 to our pot to help make Teesside a better place in which to live, work and do business.

Right now we have about 29 of these generous and brave financial backers - we call them patrons. So far we’ve raised about £400,000 from our patrons and spent about £300,000 of that.

The remaining £100,000 will be invested in community groups over the coming months. Our overheads are tiny - nearly all of our money goes direct to the groups we support.

Work we’ve done so far is genuinely amazing and has attracted a lot of attention from local and national media - I’ve been told that we’re the most successful group of our kind in the UK – and I put this down to a special sense of pride and loyalty which people from Middlesbrough and the whole of Teesside share.

A good example of the Teesside pride we’re tapping into was embodied in a phone call I took while on holiday recently from a guy called John Cheesebrough who lives in France. John had read about our work and wanted to make a meaningful financial contribution.

He wasn’t looking for publicity or anything - only to do something to help his home town. So far we’ve achieved a lot and we’re thrilled to have helped so many groups and, in particular, we’re delighted to have created and funded more than 35 apprenticeship places for local youngsters, many of whom are desperate for their first start.

I believe that 2013 will be an exciting year for our young charity, and that we can do even more great work by using the wealth of our backers to support our very best community groups and show solidarity across the whole of Teesside.

If we stay positive, work hard and stick together I believe we can make things even better.