A charity helping Borderers with brain injuries is stepping up a gear after landing a £10,000 National Lottery grant.
The payout, from the Lotto Awards for All kitty, will cover more than a quarter of the £37,000 bill for a minibus being bought by Heads Together.
The charity provides services for people living with brain injuries across the Scottish Borders from its Dovemount Place base in Hawick.
Custom-built and fully wheelchair-accessible, the new minibus, able to transport 17 people, is the group’s first, and it will transform the way it operates by improving the charity’s accessibility and finances.
Heads Together chairman, Steven Turnbull, said: “We currently can’t afford to pay for transport to pick everyone up in cars more than once a week, but when we get our new bus, that will all change and we can open more often.
“That’s important to us because people can become isolated in their houses, so just getting out to come along to the centre is enjoyable for them.
“It’s going to be great for the charity. We can do it all ourselves now, and we will have much more freedom.”
Group members will celebrate that new-found freedom by making the bus’s first trip a special one, a two-night visit to Blackpool in Lancashire for the whole group later this month.
Around 25 members from across the Borders make use of the Hawick facility, which offers a workshop, cinema system, choir rehearsal space and room to enjoy arts and crafts, and even more benefit from the static caravan the group offers for respite care at Berwick Holiday Centre.
Steven, 55, a former builder, suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2009 and helped form the charity in 2010.
He said: “We are run by and for people with brain injuries.
“I have always been a busy man, so I didn’t take well to not being able to do much. For me, it is more than a full-time job. There is a lot to running things.”
He is supported by a committee of volunteers and his wife Ann and daughter Catherine, who raised £2,500 towards the cost of the minibus by staging a sponsored head-shave.
The group received further funding from other schemes to cover the additional £27,000 needed for the bus.
One Heads Together committee member, Joe Devlin, from St Boswells, added: “I would just like to say that joining Heads Together is the best move I have ever made and the support I get is special as we are all one large family. When I joined I couldn’t really do anything for myself through lack of confidence – they have helped to rebuild it and now I can face anything.
“We have so much fun too and it helps knowing we are all in the same boat. This charity has saved my life as far as I am concerned, I really believe that, and it’s great to watch new people come in and see them become happy again too.”
Heads Together is one of 144 groups to share more than £1.1 million from the National Lottery this month, including Caddonfoot Hall in Clovenfords and Escape Youth Services, who manage Hawick Youth Centre. Both received £10,000 for new double glazing and heating systems respectively.
St Boswells Concert Band has also been awarded £6,090 from Creative Scotland to buy music equipment and pay for instructor fees to recruit younger members.
Awards for All Scotland offers National Lottery grants of between £500 and £10,000 to projects that bring communities together to enjoy a range of activities. It is a partnership by sportscotland, Big Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland.
An Awards for All spokesperson, said: “These awards highlight the wide range of projects that can be funded through Awards for All. From providing much needed services for people with brain injuries in the Scottish Borders through to making sure a community cinema in Argyll and Bute is fully equipped for all audiences, this funding shows how National Lottery money is changing lives across Scotland’s communities.”