A £10,000 grant received by Air Ambulance NI (AANI) will keep the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) in the sky for an additional two days per year, meaning medical response to at least four further critical incidences occurring locally can be responded to this year.

The organisation is one of six local organisations that have benefitted from part of a £20,000 grant, delivered by SPAR NI as part of their annual Community Cashback Scheme.

The scheme aims to reward local groups and charities for their work and care for their community, helping them to continue, while growing and improving their services.

AANI bring the emergency room where it is needed most, whether that is at the roadside or in a farmyard, attending some of the most traumatic medical incidences across the country every day. The £10,000 grant will not only allow them to respond to more accidents, but in doing so will also enable the organisation to continue providing prehospital critical care, which can often be the difference in saving a life.

Colleen Milligan from Air Ambulance NI commented; “Funding is absolutely crucial to keeping us in the air and responding to Northern Ireland’s most critical incidents. We are living and working in the most challenging of times with everyone tightening their belts, so to have the Community Cashback Grant Scheme available is quite literally lifesaving.

“We want to extend our thanks to SPAR NI for this generous donation, it is support like this that we rely on entirely and without it we wouldn’t be able to keep going, so it is so greatly appreciated.”

SOS Bus has received £5,000 from the grant, which the organisation says will go towards the renovation and refurbishment of their new safe-space and first aid bus, while ensuring all medical equipment and provisions are adequate for all needs.

SOS Bus is a volunteer-led charity providing welfare support and first aid to the vulnerable and those in need in Belfast City Centre, relieving the pressure on the NHS. The charity, which currently has 200 volunteers, has been serving the community and visitors to the city for 15 years.

The Eco Rangers, a team committed to litter picking across East Antrim, received the £2,000 grant, which will help them purchase even more equipment to enable volunteers to work effectively and safely throughout the area. The volunteer group work every day of the year, regardless of the weather, to improve their local communities and raise awareness.

Three organisations have received a £1,000 grant each: Street Soccer NI in Coleraine, Heartbeat NI based in Newry and Pretty ‘n Pink, which has offices and information points in both Belfast and Portadown.

For the second year running SPAR announced £100,000 for charities across the UK, with 1 x £10,000, 1 x £5,000, 1 x £2,000 and 3 x £1,000 grants available for organisations to apply for in Northern Ireland. The popular scheme received 1,400 entries in Northern Ireland alone this year, highlighting the need for more help and support for so many amazing charities across the country.

Bronagh Luke, Head of Corporate Marketing at Henderson Group which owns SPAR in Northern Ireland commented; “We are privileged to be able to take part in the Community Cashback Scheme for another year, helping local charities and community groups.  It is an honour to show support to such selfless people doing vital work, day in and day out.

“These donations are needed now more than ever, evidenced by the number of entries received this year doubling that of last year.  It is easy to see just how many amazing local charities and community groups need help to continue their work.

“Our stores are dedicated to their local communities, going beyond their work instore to engage with shoppers, local groups and charities, helping out in any way they can and nurturing their neighbourhoods.

“We hope these grants make a difference to these six deserving groups, helping them continue their work and grow the services they are providing.”

The organisations chosen as recipients for this year’s Community Cashback Grant funding are mostly volunteer led. A recent survey from SPAR NI revealed that nearly two thirds (61%) of people in Northern Ireland would like to volunteer in 2023, the most of all UK regions.

66% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland said they had volunteered in their community before, and a whopping 71% said they felt an improvement to their wellbeing – another stat which topped the UK-wide poll.