Spotlight On: Reading Family Aid

Reading Family Aid

We love having Reading Family Aid as part of our Connect Reading community. Ruth Perkins, Chair of Reading Family Aid, took some time to tell us a bit more about the charity and their passion for bringing joy to children in Reading.

A little about Reading Family Aid and the amazing work they do:

  • Our mission is to put a smile on the faces of disadvantaged children in the Reading area.
  • Our aim is to bring a little joy into the lives of children and families living with poverty, physical, mental, sexual, alcohol and drug abuse, illness, disability, homelessness or refugee status.
  • We work through schools, social workers, health visitors, places of worship and other charities and charitable organisations.
  • We distribute toys at Christmas to children aged 0-16 through our Toys & Teens Appeal.
  • Where our funds permit, we also provide outings throughout the year for children and their families who couldn’t afford to go otherwise. These may be to a theme park, the seaside, a zoo or a farm park; they may also be to local activity centres and adventure playgrounds, theatres and cinemas.
Why did you join Connect Reading?

We have long had connections to businesses and other charities in the town and this seemed like an excellent way of expanding that network, to make ourselves more well known which may lead to additional support and to being able to provide support to additional families through other charities.

What was your biggest challenge last year?
We were unable to provide outings and toys at Christmas in the way that we normally do. So we had to adapt our offering and our processes to allow us to provide some support. We did this by having a Summer Toy Project which provided £5,000 worth of new toys to some of the charities we support in town. At Christmas we organised a monetary appeal in place of our normal toy appeal and raised over £30,000. With these funds and some toys we had already in our store, we were still able to provide at least one toy or gift to over 1400 children in the Reading area who otherwise would have had nothing at Christmas.
What have you learned?
I have learnt how resourceful we as a committee have been and have been amazed at how generous people can be. As a committee we have not been able to meet in person for over 15 months now but the teamwork and communication between us is as good as ever. We have learnt how to write Covid compliant risk assessments and how well everyone has dealt with the frustration of not being able to plan anything. We have also learnt how much more difficult life has become for hundreds of families in Reading with being laid off from work or having to educate and entertain children for months on end without the monetary and technical resources and equipment to do so that are enjoyed by most of the population.
What has been your biggest creative triumph as an organisation?
We adapted our normal Toys and Teens Appeal to be an appeal for funds and we developed new tools and processes that allowed the various organisations we support to request a specific toy or gift for all of the most disadvantaged children they support. We ordered the items and had them delivered. It was a huge challenge in communication, technical and procedural work. And, it all went very smoothly!
What are you most looking forward to?
It would be great if we can all meet in person! We are hoping that we can organise at least some local outings and to have a more normal Toy Project at Christmas. We are also hoping to be able to be out there amongst the community at fetes and fairs and giving talks and attending concerts to raise funds and, in particular, to raise awareness of what we do.  This last year has left a lot more families in difficulties and charities like ours are seeing increasing need; not being able to respond in the way that we would like is heart-breaking, but we are doing our best! Hopefully we will be able to do more and if not this calendar year then hopefully next! We were very excited to learn that we had been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and we look forward to receiving the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire in the Autumn and attending a Queen’s Garden Party next year. It is a real accolade for the work we do, the committee and the hundreds of volunteers that have worked with us over the years.
How can people connect with you and support what you’re doing?
Anyone can check out our website www.ReadingFamilyAid.org, find us on Facebook or Twitter to find out more about us and what we do. They can get in touch by emailing us at info@ReadingFamilyAid.org. They can donate to bolster our funds to allow us to provide more outings when we can and toys for Christmas by going to our donate page. They can get involved with the Committee; we are always looking for energetic people with some time on their hands! We are particularly in need of someone with knowledge of charity law and governance to ensure that we are always working within the rules and for people who are happy to take on roles managing various aspects of the work we do.
Spotlight On: Reading Family Aid
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