A community boxing club in a Northumberland town is aiming to punch above its weight with help from a regional employer.
Ashington Amateur Boxing Club offers a range of sporting and fitness opportunities to local people from its base in the town's Hirst Welfare Centre.
The club is open to any local people aged 11 or over, regardless of age, gender or ability, and as well as enhancing their boxing skills and fitness levels, it also aims to help members develop improved self-esteem, confidence and all-round well-being.
To support its activities, the club has now used a £3,866 grant from the Banks Group, provided via its Banks Community Fund, to buy a portable 20 foot square boxing ring for use in its training sessions, as well as a new boxing bag, frame and related kit.
Originally set up in 2006 and run by a team of committed volunteers, Ashington Amateur Boxing Club attracts around 70 participants from the local area every year, with its oldest currently being in his mid 60s, and has seen members go on in the past to box at a high level, including for England.
Alongside its physical fitness focus, it has also recently been part of an employability project designed to help local young people develop the skills and confidence they need to find work.
The club holds training sessions costing just £2.20 on Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays every week which are open for anyone who wants to just turn up on the day, and club treasurer Rob Story is hoping the new equipment will encourage more local people to do so.
He says: "Our philosophy is all about being as inclusive as possible, and to encourage everyone who comes through the door to learn more not just about boxing, but about the wider benefits of physical fitness.
"We often see a big character difference in young local members who live in a community that suffers from high levels of deprivation and unemployment, and the structure and confidence that being part of the boxing club can provide can help them achieve things that they might otherwise have thought were out of reach.
"The cost of our training sessions is kept very low to make taking part an affordable option for as many local people as possible, but this means that we don't have money available to make large purchases like this.
"We would have simply had to do without a ring if the Banks Group hadn't stepped up with this generous funding, and it'll make a big difference to the work we're able to do."
Banks Mining currently employs over 200 people across the Brenkley Lane and Shotton surface mine sites near Cramlington, which jointly contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain, and which have also enabled Banks to donate around £800,000 to projects in Northumberland over the last decade alone through the Banks Community Fund.
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, says: “Sporting organisations like Ashington Amateur Boxing Club give their members a real sense of purpose in communities that face many other challenges, and the positive impact that its work has on both their fitness and self-esteem is very clear."
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of both operational and proposed Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.