How Lincoln City FC's Sport and Education Trust is making a difference...
Thousands of people across Lincolnshire are living healthier and socially richer lifestyles thanks to Lincoln City FC's Sport & Education Trust. But as Paul Whitelam reports, making a difference in the community for the past 20 years involves much more than simply football...
Any football fan will wax lyrical about how good it feels when their team scores a goal.
But a charity linked to the Imps offers a feelgood factor which makes a difference to thousands of people across Lincolnshire every year.
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Formerly Football in the Community, the Sport & Education Trust provides a wide range of sports and activities in schools, community groups and care homes.
From over-50s tossing balls into hoops at Moorland Community Centre to breaking down cultural barriers through the Stand Up Speak Up programme, the trust has touched many lives.
"It all started off in 1992 as Football in the Community with three members of staff, then developed and changed its name to the Sport & Education Trust," said former Imps midfielder and coach Richard Cooper, who managed the trust for six years.
"Now, there are 12 full-time staff and a number of part-time staff and volunteers.
"The trust engages with 10,000 people a year, from two years of age to 102 across a range of projects.
"Staff are involved in project working with people with dementia and Alzheimer's and just increasing general mental health and wellbeing.
"The trust works with young people, including the primary school curriculum, school clubs and we also offer apprenticeships and a disability programme.
"We were thrilled to secure £332,000 from the Big Lottery Fund's Reaching Communities fund which we received last autumn and lasts for three years.
"That was in recognition for the work the trust does with people with disabilities and mental health issues.
"Lincoln MP Karl McCartney supported this bid and we are very grateful. The trust is about trying to make a difference – it's not just about football."
Mr Cooper became the Football Association's regional coaching development manager for south east England on December 1.
His replacement is Paul Hamnett, 28, formerly a football development manager at Lincolnshire FA.
Mr Hamnett, who attended Ling Moor and Robert Pattinson schools, in North Hykeham, said: "In the short term, I see my role as keeping the work of the trust going, and looking at the longer term aims of the charity for the next three years.
"We will be looking at any gaps in opportunities to involve the business community and the community as a whole. The trust is based around football but it's more than that.
"It's about the benefits sport as a whole can bring, and sport has huge benefits.
"It's evolved from just doing coaching sessions in schools.
"I was ecstatic when I got this job.
"It is fantastic that we can attract money for our projects but the biggest satisfaction is knowing you can have a big effect on people's lives."