A THRIVING air cadet squadron has been given more than £3,000 by the Wiltshire Community Foundation to help it extend its reach to lower income families.

The funding was a slice of almost £96,000 given to groups across Wiltshire from the community foundation’s twice yearly foundation grants.

When Greg McKay became commanding officer of the 2385 Melksham Squadron it had just 16 members but in the three years since it has grown to 46 and he believes it can still attract more youngsters to its twice weekly parades.

“The money we’ve been given is very welcome because we’ll use it to provide branded T-shirts to give the new recruits a sense of identity and belonging. They cost around £8 and in other squadrons the cadets themselves pay for that. For many families in Melksham that just isn’t a feasible option,” he said.

The regular activities, which include adventure training, sport, music, shooting, flying and gliding, provide fun but also discipline and camaraderie. “There’s a lot of talk about knife crime in Britain and although that isn’t a huge concern in Melksham it is still great when you begin to see young people looking out for one another,” said OC McKay.

The grant will also fund up-to-date workbooks to help the youngsters learn about the history of the RAF and flying. “It will make a huge difference because the learning materials we have are very old,” said OC McKay.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation funds hundreds of groups across Wiltshire. Last year more than £1.2 million was awarded to charities and individuals across the county.

Another group to benefit from this year’s first round of foundation grants was Dorothy House Hospice in Winsley, which has been given £5,000 towards the cost of running its Hospice At Home Advancement service, which cares for patients nearing the end of their lives at home day and night.

Jamie’s Farm in Box has been awarded £5,000 towards its running costs. Founded by Jamie Feildon and his mum Tish in 2010, the farm charity takes teenagers from urban environments in Wiltshire and all around the south of the country and gives them a week working and playing on a working farm surrounded by stunning scenery, eating nourishing food and sampling a way of life far removed from their own.

Community First has been awarded £7,000 to help provide youth activities across Swindon and Wiltshire in the wake of council cuts. Through Youth Action Wilshire, it will support 65 existing clubs by providing training and guidance and assistance with fundraising.

Alzheimer’s Support in Park Road, Trowbridge, has been given £5,000 towards the cost of setting up wildlife cafes in partnership with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. One will be set up at the Rowdey Cow café in Rowde and the other in Bemerton Heath, Salisbury.

Wiltshire Community Foundation chief executive Rosemary Macdonald said: “I am delighted that this money will support such a wide range of groups who provide vital services for their communities, addressing major issues such as homelessness, loneliness, youth aspiration and mental health.

“This is what we do best, identify where the need is and then provide the funding to help tackle it.”